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Kundalini Yoga Body in a Psychotherapeutic Context

Updated: Jan 17, 2022

The teachings and practices of the Eastern spiritual traditions have witnessed an enormous rise in popularity in Western society. Kundalini Yoga has increasingly become the object of attention of the psychotherapeutic profession. It has been said that along with Meditation & physical exercises it enhances wellness and prevents illness. Several studies examined the impact of Kundalini Yoga on cognitive performance, psychological wellbeing, health and emotional regulation. So how do these culture-specific patterns find interpretation in the psychotherapeutic context?



Occasionally I teach my clients about Kundalini Yoga meditation, as this is the yoga of self-awareness. Being “self-aware” means that you are capable of self-reflecting so that you are working on your self-regulations. Being self-aware means that, since you recognise your problems, you can trust yourself to work through them. Instead of feeling stuck, practitioners identify the moves they need to make in life to push their minds into a more positive state. Kundalini Yoga guides us on how to provoke the mind through the body.


Carl Gustav Jung emphasised the significance of the physical body as an alchemical vessel in the process of individuation (the process of forming a stable personality). He believed that Kundalini Yoga was an equivalence to the union of consciousness and life where the ‘unconscious becomes conscious in the form of a living process of growth. (Jung,1967). Harris, a Jungian analyst and a yoga teacher, persists in an innate connection between the physical realm and the spiritual process of growth. The spirit develops out of the body (Harris, 2001). Conger, a psychologist and International Trainer in Bioenergetics Analysis who has been integrating Bioenergetics with Analytic Psychology since 1982, referring to Heinrich Zimmer, says, ‘all the gods are in our body’. He notes that in western culture, body awareness and spiritual awakening have been separated. He suggests that more attention to the energetic flow in the body alongside the spine can lead to ‘enlightened, embodied being’ (Conger, 1988/2005).

Marion Woodman, a Jungian analyst and woman’s movement figure, has made a huge contribution to mind and body studies. She argues that there is a consciousness in the body that needs releasing. The way to arouse this consciousness is to open the body to the metaphor, the moving images that change and flourish with life. Further, Woodman explains that the term ‘metaphor’ originates from the Latin expression ‘to transform’ and represents a powerful symbol of healing. All kinds of self-expression, such as dancing or writing, arouse the body’s metaphorical vision. She says:


‘The whole world of dreams is a metaphorical, symbolic one. Religion is based on symbols. Art, music, poetry, and the whole creative world -the world of the soul- is based on it’ (Woodman,1993).

The somatic experience caused by the practice of yoga and work with chakras can add value to the art of ‘being’.


One can learn to interpret bodily sensations and observe the movement that works on an unconscious level, and experience the energy that travels towards consciousness, affecting not only the body but also the whole spectrum of related psychological items.


In the West, energy and the spirit are separated from the substance of the matter. The feeling does not enter the body’s dense matter, hence the authentic conflict between matter and spirit occurs in the unconscious and manifests in somatic form (Woodman,1982).


It would be hard to deny that Europe is obsessed with health and spiritual movement these days. Perhaps Europeans seek to restore and recreate Christian values that have lost their importance. It has become fashionable to be spiritual and healthy, yet it is difficult to judge what constitutes a healthy approach to the body and the soul.


Clarissa Pinkola Estes emphasises that we should pay more attention not to how our body looks, but to how it feels, and how we respond to this spectrum of feelings (Estes,1992). Our bodies communicate with us in many ways.


Jung believed that the many symptoms and neuroses created by the body are actually messages from the psyche (Woodman,1980). These physical manifestations appear to uncover the existence of the gods. They are not only ‘conscious abstraction’ or functions, but ‘the divine thing’ acting as neuroses and the ‘disturbances of the underworld’ (Jung,1983).


Woodman understands the body as an incarnate symbol and recognises the divine power of the wound. She describes the swollen body surrounded by the water of the unconscious in preparation for revealing a healing image. ‘I’ll give you the symbols which will make it possible for you to go out into a new life’ says the body (Woodman,1983).


Concluding Woodman’s thoughts, one might say that Kundalini Yoga practice invites the unconscious to enter dialogue with the conscious mind. The creative process unfolds through the body sensations, through listening and interpreting its messages. The wounded body functions as the door to divine knowing.

The traditional Western approach to therapy tends to neglect signals from the body. Woodman notes that we have become alienated from the nature of instinct and thus cannot connect to the images that might be produced by our psyche. She further says that although we might be able to recognise and interpret our symbolic dreams intellectually, in order to heal, they have to be assimilated by the body (Woodman,1991).


The body, where instincts are born, serves as a container for the process of healing. Woodman regrets that people do not want to take responsibility for their lives and they tend to ‘fly off into spirit and try to live out an archetypal dream’ (Woodman,1993). She describes this as ‘inflation’ and declares that the only end to it is depression or illness once one crashes from the heights to the earth (Woodman,1993).


I share Woodman’s view on this subject. Purely analytical work that inclines toward interpretation of the dream and its mythological meaning often tends to neglect the information sent by the body, and that is why I believe more therapists should encourage their clients to practice yoga and meditation while they regularly attend therapy.

 

References:


Estes, C. (1992). Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype. USA: Ballantine.

Harris, J. (2001). Jung and Yoga: The Psyche Body Connection. Toronto: Inner City Books.

Jung, C. G. (1996). The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga: Notes of the seminar given in 1932 by C. G. Jung (S. Shamdasani Ed ed.). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Jung, C. G. (1967). The Secret of the Golden Flower. A Chinese Book of Life. (R. Wilhelm, Trans.) Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Jung, C. (1983). Conscious, unconscious, and individuation. In A. Storr (Ed.) The essential Jung. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Woodman, M. (1982). Addiction to perfection: The Still unravished bride. Toronto: Inner City Books.

Woodman, M. (1993). Conscious femininity. Toronto: Inner City Books.

Woodman, M. (1991). Holding the tension of the opposites. Toronto: U. Audiobook.



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