Recently, I have attended a course on yoga therapy for depression and addictions. A very interesting experience, great to see how knowledge and skills from different perspectives can be integrated into multifaceted approach!
The most important lessons I have learned from the course are:
1) Yoga therapy is focused on developing a healthy and balanced lifestyle (svastha). Accordingly, the practice of yoga therapy is not limited to people who experience problems, as we usually do in regular health care, but can be beneficial for everyone.
This definition is based on the idea that all problems exist on a spectrum; instead of asking the question whether someone has a depressive disorder or not (categorical approach), the question is to what degree depressive characteristics are present (dimensional approach). When I studied psychology and worked in a research setting, I saw that this vision is becoming more and more accepted in the social sciences.
2) Ancient practices from yoga philosophy (Samkhya), such as observation and evaluation of thoughts and behavioural patterns, are now supported in their effectiveness by scientific research. Wisdom that can be found in yoga philosophy, comes back in contemporary mental health care as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
3) According to the principles of yoga therapy, problems such as depression should be viewed from various angles: top-down by practicing self-awareness, but also bottom-up by adapting behaviour and lifestyle. This is similar to what is applied in first-choice psychological treatment.
4) Finally, yoga therapy involves biological, psychological and social factors in understanding and coping with psychological issues. In other words, the biopsychosocial model, which plays an important role in the current approach to mental problems in psychology, is also used in yoga therapy.
In other words, yoga therapy and conventional mental health care can seamlessly be intertwined! I am inspired to bring this into clinical practice, and hope more people will do this with me. I am convinced that mental well-being can improve much more by changing the entire system than just a specific part of it. Yoga teachers, clinicians, researchers, and anyone else who is interested: what do you think?