By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500
Are there any psychological benefits to be gained from Yoga practice? At this point in time, most individuals, outside of India, view Yoga as a physical activity more than anything else. This is partially true; Yoga has extensive benefits for the physical body, but these may be outweighed by the positive effects on the psychological state of the practitioner.
Yoga is an established system, in comparison to many of the other healing systems, from a historical perspective. Most healing systems often end up addressing the exact same issues. Yet, the biggest difference is terminology within the specific healing system, and we are attached to words. There is a belief in some psychological circles, which indicates the more often a thought is fired in the brain, the easier and more likely it is to fire again. It seems logical to believe this is the root of repetitive or negative thoughts. Negative thought patterns are reinforced every time they are allowed to fire. Scientists now believe they know why this happens. Every time a thought pattern is fired in the brain, a neural pathway is created. These neural pathways are tangible and physical paths in the brain that neurons follow.
Imagine every thought as a path cut through the wilderness. The one time thought results in what is basically a deer path. There is evidence that something once walked that way, but it’s certainly not easy going. The occasional thought results in an overgrown and uneven trail, easier than the deer path, but still a difficult way to walk. The everyday, common, and repetitive thoughts, become a well-worn walking trail that have been beaten down to a smooth and easy path, where weeds will not grow. So, this is the source of the reason why there is more of the same behavior, and it manifests itself from the thought patterns (paths) of the mind.
This line of thinking runs parallel to past and present Yogic philosophy. In Yoga, these pathways are called “samskara.” They are all the latent impressions, thoughts, feelings, and patterns contained within an individual’s mind. In the case of samskara, there might be a difference between Yoga and modern psychology in the way these patterns are treated. In psychology, a conscious attempt to change these patterns is usually made. There are many approaches to changing patterns within the mind, and many of them work very well. In simplistic terms: It is a matter of reprogramming the mind toward positive thoughts.
Usually, the Yogic approach is to accept these patterns, as they are observed, and the key is to bring them into conscious awareness, without judgment, since judgment only leads to more unwanted patterns. In Yoga, they simply are, but they are not something to become further identified with. The psychological benefits of recognizing samskara, and learning how to distance ourselves from them, are immense, since they are the root of many psychological disturbances in human beings. This is one more reason why Yoga often yields positive results for mental and emotional issues.
While Yoga and psychology are uniquely different, they both have extremely promising futures. Both systems co-exist easily, because each field is willing to adapt, and evolve, to meet the needs of humankind. Yoga is not psychology, but it is a good adjunct therapy for bringing one’s mind into balance and that is just one of many psychological benefits to be gained from practice.
© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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