In her book Yoga & Psyche, Mariana Caplan brings together the field of psychology and the practice of yoga. Two concepts that naturally compliment each other and makes me beg the question: why have I not thought of this before?
“Spiritual practice can take people to heights of bliss, transcendence, oneness, emptiness, and mystical union in ways that nothing else can. However, by itself yoga does not heal relational wounds, increase self- esteem, or end addiction. Western psychology, on the other hand, does address these aspects of our shared humanity. Even so, psychology by itself can’t offer the contentment, joy, and life-altering experiences that yoga and other spiritual practices can.”
Yoga, by nature, is a very spiritual practice.
Even those that start out practicing yoga for purely the physical aspects typically experience the connection between mind, body, and spirit that comes from time spent on the mat. The field of psychology has the ability to take things that are uncovered from your time on the mat and help you understand the connections occurring within your body. The idea of these two fields complimenting each other makes so much sense, yet it is still an emerging connection that is only just now beginning to be explored.
The book is broken down into three main sections. The first section discusses the basic ideas behind the practice of yoga, the field of psychology, and how the two complement, and need, each other. She discusses the far reach that yoga has, the misconceptions surrounding yoga, and how yoga really is for everybody. Caplan delves into where these practices come together and compliment each other through the psychological benefits that yoga can provide– from the reduction of stress to the overall promotion of well-being to assisting in the treatment of a clinical diagnosis.
The second section goes further into the ideas from the first section, discussing specific ways in which the two disciplines meet and interact. This section is heavy in psychology theories and terminology. Caplan takes the time to break down these theories to show readers how the body and mind really interact, which is why the connection between yoga and psychology adds such an interesting dynamic to both fields. One of my favorite parts of this section was where she breaks down the nervous system by discussing the different layers through a common yoga pose, vrksasana or tree pose. As someone with only a foundational level of both yoga and psychology, this description was laid out in terms that I understood and can visualize to help me better grasp the concepts.
The third and final section acts like a toolbox of sorts. In this section Caplan provides readers with practices and methods to bring together yoga and psychology in their own practice. She provides six very concrete practices to merge the fields of yoga and psychology together. These practices are accessible to anyone and really show the reader the application of the principles she discusses throughout the rest of the book. After reading this book, I took some time on my mat over the course of a few weeks to try out these practices. I now keep the book beside my mat in my yoga room for reference as these exercises can be repeated to deepen my practice over time.
This book is ideal for those with a fundamental knowledge of some basic psychological principles.
Within the book, Caplan provides suggestions for psychologists wishing to infuse the healing of yoga into their psychology practices, yoga teachers who wish to help their students deal with their emotions, or even the independent yoga practitioner wishing to deepen their own yoga practice. While Caplan does take the time to break down and explain the psychology terms and ideas, I felt like I would be a little overwhelmed with this book without some fundamental psychology courses in college to help frame the psychology discussion.
Check out Yoga & Psyche here! Let us know what you think if you read it too!