Yoga Psychology vs. Western Psychology

TureyaAshramYoga psychology is a normative science and is practically maintained by a form of scientific moderation through the examination and self-exploration of Yoga, the same system of Yoga which has been in existence for more than 5,000 years. Yoga psychology, like Yoga therapy, has only recently been defined as a separate discipline of Yoga; however Yoga psychology has been an integral part of Yoga from the very beginning of spirituality in India. This is because the primary goal of Yoga has always been to understand the mind and its operations in order to find peace and liberation. Yoga psychology involves the study of the human personality as well as the growth and development of the human being, both through the process of physical evolution as well as psychological and spiritual. It does so with scientific precision that not only takes into account the functions of the human being, but also examines the more subtle aspects of human life including spirituality.

Yoga psychology uses prescribed techniques and practices in order to achieve the objectives of analyzing and treating various psychological disorders and dysfunctions. Aside from addressing problems, Yoga psychology also concentrates on how to cultivate happiness and joy which are both the basis for any psychological practice. If we do not want to be happy, then what is the point of psychology? But unlike western psychology which primarily focuses on how to meticulously partition the functions of the mind or modify chemical processes within the body and the brain, Yoga psychology seeks to expand consciousness and develop the ability to become a master of the mind and the thought patterns. This profound philosophy is new to western psychology as it states that the human being is not a victim of the mind but master, and can control various aspects of thoughts in order to gain desired results.

One of the more unique facets of Yoga psychology is its ability to examine and change the patterns of thoughts and redirect them towards a desired point of concentration. In Yoga psychology, it is believed that one can not only find greater peace and balance but also develop more advanced states of consciousness and awareness. These are of immense value both for practical living as well as spirituality. These deeper levels of consciousness are discovered through the practice of self inquiry and self observation which are not limited by space, time, and governing physiological boundaries. Although it was previously believed that such psychological changes were esoteric in nature, western science is now beginning to validate the deeper aspects of spirituality through physics and the studies of the universe.

In the 19th century, Freud introduced to psychology the concept of consciousness, subconsciousness, and unconsciousness. Extremely similar concepts were derived in Yoga thousands of years prior to Freud’s discovery, and since then have been meticulously developed through thousands of years of inquiry and extended observation. The only modification that exists between Freudian theory and the thousand year old Yoga theory is that Yoga believes that there is a fourth level of consciousness known as Turiya which is the transcendental state of consciousness or super consciousness. It is from this governing dynamic that Yoga psychology has gained much insight and understanding of the psychological processes of the human mind, and has developed a substantial body of research into how this state of mind can be achieved. Through practical and repeatable methodologies, Yoga psychology has proven itself to be an effective system for not only curing psychological dysfunctions but also developing higher embodiments of human consciousness.

One of the most significant differences between western psychology and Yoga psychology is the way consciousness is perceived. In western psychology it is widely believed that consciousness is a derivative of physiological processes within the brain. This is based primarily on the empirical structure of philosophy which believes that everything in the universe is a product of physiological reactions and relationships. Yoga psychology, in contrast, believes that human consciousness is a filtered form of cosmic consciousness which is responsible for governing the creation and manifestation of the universe. The reason why the human psyche is unable to grasp the magnitude of consciousness is because of psychological blocks or veils that prevent comprehension and experience of the magnanimous cosmic consciousness. However through the practice of Yoga one can not only understand the qualities of the cosmic consciousness but can actually exist in synthesis with the cosmic consciousness. Although western psychology negates the existence of such a higher form of consciousness, there has yet to be any evidence that disproves the potential of human consciousness that is believed to exist in Yoga psychology. In many regards, it can be said that western psychology is still groping in the dark for a needle in a haystack in order to understand the true nature of consciousness.

Yoga psychology is not only limited to only the practice of achieving higher states of consciousness. Although these can easily be achieved through the practice of Yoga psychology, common disorders like stress and anxiety can easily be apprehended and treated through the practice of Yoga psychology. This is because Yoga psychology effectively approaches human nature and has developed techniques which are based upon the qualities of the human being, starting from the most physical exterior of the skin and reaching through all the layers of the human being into the spiritual aspects of man. Unlike western psychology, Yoga psychology adamantly attests to the mind-body-spirit principle, and approaches any psychological disorder with practices and techniques that will address every aspect of the human being. For instance, in accommodating a psychological disorder such as depression, Yoga psychology will examine the following:

o The lifestyle of the individual

o  personal characteristics and traits

o dietary patterns

o exercise and physical health

o  daily environment and atmosphere

o thought processes and modality of perception

o belief and philosophy

o and breathing patterns (just to name a few)

This is where Yoga psychology proves to be an extremely effective method for addressing psychological disorders as it incorporates all aspects of the human being into the treatment. Integration is essential because cooperation between the mind, the body, and the spirit is necessary in order to find sustainable and lifelong solutions to psychological, physical, and emotional problems. Instead of suppressing a disorder and prolonging its reappearance through the use of medication or therapy sessions, Yoga psychology works to eradicate the problem by introducing new lifestyle practices and mental modifications which will eliminate the mechanics of the disorder.

Source: Reprinted from the course description of the Yoga Psychology program offered by Tureya Ashram, India

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