Patanjali’s regimen, at times, corresponds to the idea of ‘self-actualisation” in psychotherapy

India’s ancient tradition Yoga has become a multimillion-dollar industry in the past few decades and taking a path of its own, under many different names, brands, meanings; it’s hard not to feel some resentment towards the trends that take yoga out of its origins, and reduce it to a physical discipline. It gets even harder to accept when postural yoga is copy pasted into a distinct faith or idea to gather a small audience around a founder that has fashioned a new yoga brand. This makes me question how far we can expand on the idea of cultural appropriation or if you will, misappropriation. One wonders if the author of Yogasūtra Patanjali, who offers the philosophy of yoga in the most concise way and brings yoga as a mental, psychological and spiritual guidebook would have cringed in the face of the trends that are mushrooming all over the world.

While the West’s appreciation of yoga overemphasises the body practice, the true aim of yoga is building self-awareness and a way of health and balance of body, psyche and environment. Patanjali’s 196 verses — perhaps the oldest system of psychotherapy — aimto develop awareness, regulation of body, mind, and emotions. In this system, the physical part of yoga (asana) is considered a preparation where one gets the body out of the way before getting to the main aspects of yoga, that is mental work and introspection. Patanjali teaches a methodical yoga, a systematic approach oriented towards a direct realisation of truth, which at times corresponds to the idea of “self-actualisation” in psychotherapy. If we look at the philosophical and intellectual interactions between the West and India, we see that there is a great deal of yoga philosophy and thought absorbed in today’s psychology, and there are parallels between yoga’s world view and what psychotherapy wants to accomplish. Please click here to read the full article.