Freud and Yoga: Two Philosophies of Mind Compared

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9780865477599: Freud and Yoga: Two Philosophies of Mind Compared

Lessons from a great yoga master and an eminent psychoanalyst that explore what psychotherapy and yoga philosophy have in common

Yoga philosophy and Freud's revolutionary approach to psychology could not have been developed in more different times, places, or cultural conditions. And yet these two profound and dynamic systems of understanding human behavior, emotions, perception, and what's essential in our existence have an astonishing amount to share. What we learn by comparing their similarities as well as their differences can enhance how we comprehend our lives and our potential for change.
In "Freud and Yoga," the great yoga master T.K.V. Desikachar and the eminent psychoanalyst Hellfried Krusche examine forty classic sayings, or "sutras," from the vantage point of their respective disciplines. Through clear, candid conversations that draw on long experience and are illustrated by case studies from the clinic and the "shala," these two experts explain the concepts, terms, forces, and processes in their traditions.
Therapists and patients, yoga adepts and professionals, and readers interested in psychology and spirituality will find this unique investigation fascinating, enriching, and useful. In a time when Western and Eastern modalities have ever more to offer each other, "Freud and Yoga" is a watershed work one that draws us closer to understanding our own nature and the deep workings of the human psyche."

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About the Author:

Hellfried Krusche is a psychotherapist and psychoanalyst. He is a training analyst and supervisor for the International Psychoanalytic Association in Germany and lectures widely in Europe and Britain on yoga and psychoanalysis. Born in Aachen in 1951, he lives in Cologne where he has a private practice.

T.K.V. Desikachar, Krishnamacharya’s son and longtime student, is one of the world’s foremost teachers of yoga. A renowned authority on the therapeutic uses of yoga, he is the founder of the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram and the cofounder of the Krishnamacharya Healing and Yoga Foundation, both of which are based in Chennai.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

1

What Do Yoga and Relationship Have in Common?

 

YOGASUTRA, CHAPTER ONE (samadhi-pada )

T.K.V. Desikachar:   After this introduction, I would like to start with the first sutra of the first chapter of the Yogasutra:

atha yoganusasanam

Here begins the authoritative instruction on yoga. (YS I.1)

This sentence can have different meanings, depending on your perspective. When the teacher recites this, it means “Now I am going to share with you the yoga that I have the experience of.”

When the student says this, it means “I am committed to you, whatever instruction you may give, I will follow until I experience yoga.”

So the same words have two different meanings. While the teacher says, “I have experience; I am able to teach you,” the student says, “I am committed to a relationship with you; I am therefore willing to follow your instructions.”

The word committed is very important. It is the student’s promise that he or she is not there for casual study. The student is totally committed, and the teacher expresses satisfaction with that sincerity. In India, teaching something as precious as yoga is never done casually.

For example, when I was just twenty-three years old, my father asked me to come very early for class. It was not easy. But this was the way he tested me. Ancient people had their own unique system to test the student’s commitment. When the student approached them the first time, they would give many pretexts not to start. “Come in six months,” they would say, or, “We will start the class in January.” “We have to wait a month before starting.” This is the way the teacher used to test the student’s perseverance.

So the message of the first sutra is: The teacher has had the personal experience that gives him or her the authority to teach. Moreover, the teacher is convinced that the student is sincere. From the student’s point of view, there is clarity: “I will study yoga, I will stay with this teacher until the teacher teaches me everything.”

Hellfried Krusche:   The framework of this is very deep commitment and the ability of a student to develop a relationship to the teacher and to yoga. There should not be any doubt or ambivalence regarding this relationship. There should be a serious connection, which may have far-reaching consequences throughout the rest of the student’s life. This is difficult for us to understand in the Western world; in fact, many would see it as an unreasonable expectation. However, scientific research has shown that a connection and identification with a therapist, for example with a psychoanalyst, can be very conducive to the transformative process. We see this again and again in psychoanalysis. It is clear for us psychoanalysts that it is crucial for us to experience long-lasting relationships. Only through the experience of such a relationship can we actually know what change really is. Part of this experience is realizing that negative feelings also have their place within a relationship. Only when we have learned how to constructively use negative feelings within a relationship are we capable of dealing with that which we encounter in the relationship with our patients in a skillful and helpful way. This is why, in Western psychoanalysis, therapists first have to go through a longer period of therapy before being ready to take on patients themselves. They have to be able to understand their patients on an emotional as well as an intellectual level. So you see, there are similarities between our cultures.

The most important thing for the therapist is to develop the capacity to be open with his or her patient and to interact without prejudice or having any preconceived notions. A good therapist who is able to do this from the start can be receptive to messages from the patient from the very first meeting. When therapist and patient meet for the first time in this way, there should be something like what you described. This capacity to be open and start a new relationship is thus similar to what you describe with yoga.

But there is an important difference. What you deem essential at the beginning of yoga teaching, we see as something that has to be developed over a long period—it may even be the final result of therapy. It seldom exists straight from the outset.

D:   Perhaps the difference is not really so great. As I said, what my father first taught me was simple and superficial. He went step by step. This is for two reasons. First, the student has to understand. The teacher needs to ensure this. Second, the interest to learn or experience cannot be imposed. As the student experiences more and more in practice, the teacher unfolds more and more meaning. It is a process. That is why the word anu, meaning “to follow,” is used. The less the student follows, the less he or she experiences, and vice versa. Yoga is not merely intellectual. It is about inner transformation. And as we will see as we go on, yoga is also relationship.

H:   Do you mean that transformation happens through relationship?

D:   Yes. For example, the first thought that came into my mind while starting this work was that I had to acknowledge Patañjali. Then I wanted to acknowledge my teacher, my father. This is relationship.

Coming back to the first sutra, atha yoganusasanam is about experience. Let me contrast this with the first sutra in Hinduism, called the Brahmasutra. It says: athato brahma-jijñasa. “Let us inquire into Brahman.” This is intellectual, while atha yoganusasanam is experiential.

Let me put this in context for you. In the beginning, when I started my yoga lessons I told my father that I did not believe in God. He said, “If you don’t believe in God, that is fine.” Then in 1964 we came to the sutra about Isvara-pra idhana, which means that you recognize and trust in a higher power. He said, “This is not important for you. Let us go to the next sutra.” In 1984, when I asked him to teach the Yogasutra based on his own experience, he said, “The basic experience I have of yoga is: total faith in God! For me, total faith in God is the only way to change a state of mind.”

So, to repeat, in the beginning my teacher was very flexible. He worked according to the inner needs of his student. As the relationship grew stronger, he began to speak of his own experience and authority. This is very important because yoga is neutral. We mistake yoga for Hinduism. Yoga is not Hinduism. My father had great faith, but he never imposed his beliefs on me.

H:   You said yoga has to be taught step-by-step. It seems like the teacher tries to reach the student at his or her level, and the student tries to do the same with the teacher. So the student follows the teacher, and at the same time the teacher follows the student. From the very beginning, each side moves toward the other to build a relationship. And this relationship should allow openness and trust to develop. Is that correct?

D:   Yes!

H:   So this relationship between teacher and student should strive for openness and commitment?

D:   Absolutely.

H:   So trust (called sraddha in Sanskrit), and the capacity of one being in touch with the other, should be developed during this process at the deepest level possible. Any obstacle should be removed?

D:   Yes. That is why in Sanskrit the words used are not atha yoga sasanam but rather atha yoganusasanam. Sasanam is a command and means something that must be followed and practiced. However, anusasanam indicates respect for the person since anu means “to follow”; anusasanam is therefore something that can be followed and practiced.

H:   This is a process taking place?

D:   Yes, it is a dynamic process and not an order. That is why the word anu is so important. The person who has the experience and the person who wants to have it must both come into contact with each other. It is a living relationship, not a sheet of paper. I would like to clarify something before continuing. The relationship that we are talking about is focused only on yoga. For instance, my relationship with a politician I am teaching is not about politics, but only about yoga. This is very clearly stated in the Upani ads. We have to respect the person; there is no other kind of relationship. You may recall that a few years ago you mentioned that you did not go to the concert of one of your patients. You distanced yourself in order to protect the therapeutic relationship. This is not always easy. There should be discipline on the part of the yoga teacher. We should not go too deeply into the everyday life of our students. The yoga teacher must be disciplined and practice self-restraint. As I said, it is not easy, but if I treat someone as a powerful politician, then I will not have the authority of a teacher. And the student will not respect me. That is why the words atha yoganusasanam are so important. Our relationship is about transformation of the mind and the psyche and nothing else!

H:   If you give advice, it should be understood only in terms of yoga and transformation.

D:   Yes. This is why atha is a very important and powerful word. Atha also means “attention, reference, commitment, and awareness of what is to be done.” I repeat, atha is a very strong word. My father would insist on our reciting the first sutra after every sutra:

atha yoganusasanam

yogas citta-v tti-nirodha

atha yoganusasanam

tada dra u svarupe’vasthanam

atha yoganusasanam

v tti-sarupyamitaratra

H:   So when you are in contact with your students, how do you make the distinction between yoga-related issues and normal life situations?

D:   A friend of mine likes wine. When he comes here, I always get him a very good wine. It is for him to decide whether he will drink the wine or not. The second thing is, in ancient times the young student would stay with a teacher for eight years. Today it is not like that. Some of my students are older than me. It is a different situation. And transformation too is different.

We have to be clear about dharma. I do not like to interfere. Many of my students ask me, What can I do for you? I say, I only want the connection with you. This ethical framework is very important. I interact with my students only as a yoga teacher. My father taught the king of Mysore, but he never accepted any kind of gift from him. The king sometimes sent him jewelry, but my father wouldn’t even touch it. He sent it back immediately. Authority is lost when the student becomes the authority because of this kind of power.

H:   From the beginning you demand a lot from your yoga students. The requirements in the West for psychotherapy patients are not the same as this. In our setup, patients have to come, respect the setting, pay the fees, and speak freely about that which preoccupies them. Initially, there is also a process on a superficial level. This should be maintained for a period of time to protect the young and developing relationship.

So in fact, when it comes to the qualities of the relationship, there is a similarity with yoga. Many analysts today agree that if you are able to undertake and build a very deep and long-lasting relationship, nearly every mental illness can be overcome, even the results of severe mental trauma. The hurdle is that many patients, when they enter psychotherapy, fear loss of control. So they try to undermine the developing relationship in order to protect themselves. They want this relationship, but at the same time they resist it. This interferes and tends to destroy the relationship. How to deal with this is one of the main problems in psychotherapy—how to sustain a relationship, how to protect it and go along with it. How do you deal with this problem of establishing a relationship in yoga? How do you protect and develop it?

D:   Building a relationship is difficult. It takes time to build confidence and trust. This is not easy. In India, there is a saying: Only four ears must hear—teacher and student. That is why in transformation there is only one connection: teacher-student, one to one. They say in Sanskrit, if you want to learn something that will help you transform, it is like surgery. One doctor cannot operate on several people at the same time. This setting and ambience should be confidential. Not only should it be confidential, it should appear confidential. Like when I closed the door for our session. Only you and I are here. The resistance to such a close relationship is often enormous. There are lots of problems, like possible shame and questions of trust. Not everyone who has gone through yoga has been transformed.

Today there are also too many choices. In ancient times there was only one teacher. As we say, many people are “collectors” but not “connectors.” That is why many people have not truly benefited from yoga. So in both the West and the East, we have similar problems.

Also, there is fear. Fear of making a mistake, fear of disappointing, fear of being exploited. That is why the connection between student and teacher is confined to yoga only. Even gender is not important. For example, when Patañjali taught yoga, the students did not even see his face. There was a curtain between them. So the student only heard the teacher’s instruction. What is the symbolism here? It is that the teacher-student connection is not physical but spiritual. Patañjali said, “Nobody should open the curtain. Otherwise he will burn to ashes.” There are two sides—the teacher has to earn trust, the student has to apply effort.

Proper compensation is another topic. In our tradition, the teacher asks the student for fees at the end of the teaching. The teacher will decide the fees depending on the transformation and the resources of the student, based on his or her probable future. And the student, if he or she trusts the teacher, will never disappoint him. So, for example, after seventeen years of teaching, the teacher may say, “Now you have developed and transformed, you can go to the next stage of life and this is what I want you to pay.” It may be a cow or it may be gold. At the end of this period of teaching, the teacher also gives these instructions:

1. Tell the truth!

2. Follow your dharma, your correct path in life!

3. Do not assume that you have completed your studies!

4. Continue your self-inquiry (svadhyaya).

5. Now pay the fees, start a family, and have children.

What I want to clarify is that the teacher does not want slavery. The teacher wants to serve the student. When the student has been transformed and has become a wiser person, ...

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Descrizione libro Farrar, Straus Giroux Inc, United States, 2014. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Yoga philosophy and Freud s revolutionary approach to psychology could not have been developed in more different times, places, or cultural conditions. And yet these two profound and dynamic systems of understanding human behaviour, emotions, perception, and what s essential in our existence have an astonishing amount to share. What we learn by comparing their similarities as well as their differences can enhance how we comprehend our lives and our potential for change. In Freud and Yoga, the great yoga master T.K.V. Desikachar and the eminent psychoanalyst Hellfried Krusche examine forty classic sayings, or s No. tras, from the vantage point of their respective disciplines. Through clear, candid conversations that draw on long experience and are illustrated by case studies from the clinic and the shala, these two experts explain the concepts, terms, forces, and processes in their traditions. Therapists and patients, yoga adepts and professionals, and readers interested in psychology and spirituality will find this unique investigation fascinating, enriching, and useful. In a time when Western and Eastern modalities have ever more to offer each other, Freud and Yoga is a watershed work-one that draws us closer to understanding our own nature and the deep workings of the human psyche. Codice libro della libreria AAS9780865477599

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Descrizione libro Farrar, Straus Giroux Inc, United States, 2014. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Yoga philosophy and Freud s revolutionary approach to psychology could not have been developed in more different times, places, or cultural conditions. And yet these two profound and dynamic systems of understanding human behaviour, emotions, perception, and what s essential in our existence have an astonishing amount to share. What we learn by comparing their similarities as well as their differences can enhance how we comprehend our lives and our potential for change. In Freud and Yoga, the great yoga master T.K.V. Desikachar and the eminent psychoanalyst Hellfried Krusche examine forty classic sayings, or s No. tras, from the vantage point of their respective disciplines. Through clear, candid conversations that draw on long experience and are illustrated by case studies from the clinic and the shala, these two experts explain the concepts, terms, forces, and processes in their traditions. Therapists and patients, yoga adepts and professionals, and readers interested in psychology and spirituality will find this unique investigation fascinating, enriching, and useful. In a time when Western and Eastern modalities have ever more to offer each other, Freud and Yoga is a watershed work-one that draws us closer to understanding our own nature and the deep workings of the human psyche. Codice libro della libreria AAS9780865477599

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