Differentiation between Yoga Therapy, Yoga Teaching, Clinical Practice as a Psychologist

Although I consider teaching yoga to have potential therapeutic value for students, my yoga therapy practice is quite distinct from my teaching yoga class. And while I consider yoga therapy to be very effective in assisting life transformations, it is quite different from my work as a clinical psychologist in my private practice.

Working with students in class, I am teaching the technical aspects of yoga. I am teaching sequences based on the type of class I am teaching (hatha, restorative, vinyasa, kundalini, etc.). I do ask if anyone is experiencing any physical pain or injury and I will assist that person individually. I do, however, focus on the education and instruction of methods and techniques of yoga rather than focusing on that person in particular improving their condition. I teach specific technical asanas without a focus on specific conditions or symptoms. I encourage each student to tune into their own practice but I am not intimately connected to what that may be for a given student. It is their practice. I am facilitating.

 When working with a client for yoga therapy, I am working with a person (or group) around a specific symptom or condition (physical or mental health) or ailment, and working to help that person alleviate the symptom and improve the condition. In contrast to working as a yoga teacher, being a yoga therapist approaches the session from the need of the client (or group). I move through an assessment process, doing an intake and then develop a plan of yogic intervention. I work with the client to implement and practice this intervention to get to a stage of maintenance and sustainability. This work is typically more time limited than an ongoing yoga class may be. The focus is on the need of the client or group rather than a generalized plan. 

As a clinical psychologist, I see patients utilizing specific psychological modalities and practices I have advanced training in. I studied in Philadelphia, San Francisco, Pondicherry and Auroville (India), and Bali learning about psychospirituality, the science of psychology, and the techniques of Indian psychology, yogic philosophy and application. While I am trained in Integral Psychology (the psychology system developed by Sri Aurobindo and The Mother), I have deeply trained in Western psychology systems at an APA accredited institute. Primarily, my theoretical orientations are depth psychology, psychodynamic/psychoanalytic, transpersonal and Integral. I work up to 5 times per week with a given patient delving deep into the psyche with a sturdy container. I work with intensely with transference and countertransference, utilizing the relationship as change and healing agent. While I may employ guided imagery and yogic practices, these are not the focus of the treatment, but are part of the somatic understanding of the human experience. I may also lean on some theoretical understandings of a yogic path, such as Carl Jung’s understanding and incorporation of kundalini yoga as a way of understanding the clinical case.

I work with many people who have high levels of trauma and also use other reference tools to understand and treat the trauma and subsequent depression and anxiety. (Trauma-Sensitive Yoga in Therapy: Bringing the Body into Treatment. By David Emerson; Meditation and Yoga in Psychotherapy: Techniques for Clinical Practice; Yoga & Psychotherapy: The Evolution of Consciousness by Swami Rama, Rudolph Ballentine, MD, and Swami Ajaya, PhD; Integral Psychology: The Psychological System of Sri Aurobindo (in original words and in elaborations) by Indra Sen; Integral Psychology by Brant Cortright)

(Reference: The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga: Notes of the Seminar Given in 1932)

Dr. Denise Renye, www.wholepersonintegration.com

Licensed Psychologist, Certified Yoga Therapist, Certified Sexologist

denise renye