Yoga in counseling?

What do you think of when you hear the word yoga? Perhaps you think of flexibility or getting into a certain pose. Maybe you envision the Instagram culture of doing handstands on the beach or doing tree pose on top of a mountain. Culturally speaking, the way that yoga is viewed here in the West is a lot different than where it originated in the East. Before getting into how yoga can support your therapy, it is important to bring up where the word yoga comes from.

“The word ‘Yoga’ is derived from the Sanskrit root ‘Yuj’, meaning ‘to join’ or ‘to yoke’ or ‘to unite,’” (Basavaraddi, 2015). Yoga in the way that I approach it is about connecting rather than doing. Connecting with mind, body, and spirit, rather than doing a workout. Of course, there is no shame in using yoga as a way to workout, but we’re speaking in terms of its usefulness therapeutically. So, what does this look like in a therapy session?

Yoga in a therapy session involves starting a conversation with your body. Moving from a thinking space (which can include chatter, anxiety, racing thoughts, etc.) to a body space. Your body provides information that doesn’t come from a thinking space. You feel it. Feeling your own breath and body sensations without judgment or the need to fix it. Just noticing what is happening within your body. We explore sensation through different postures or movement. This requires no prior yoga experience, certain level of flexibility, or fitness. Connecting mind and body in a therapy session is useful because how we do things on the mat, is generally how we carry ourselves in life off the mat.

The therapist is there to support you. The therapist also attunes to patterns that are happening on the mat and brings that into awareness. Change is created from the present moment experiences on the mat. For example, maybe you feel an emotion in your body for the first time. Or, you tend to push yourself to the extreme and for the first time, you experience what it is like not to. The lightbulb moments that happen on the mat are processed in session and eventually transferred to your life.

Basavaraddi, D. V. (2015, April 23). Yoga: Its Origin, History and Development. Retrieved October 07, 2020, from