Lessons from a great yoga master and an eminent psychoanalyst that explore what psychotherapy and yoga philosophy have in common
Yoga philosophy and Freud's revolutionary approach to psychology could not have been developed in more different times, places, or cultural conditions. And yet these two profound and dynamic systems of understanding human behavior, emotions, perception, and what's essential in our existence have an astonishing amount to share. What we learn by comparing their similarities as well as their differences can enhance how we comprehend our lives and our potential for change. In Freud and Yoga, the great yoga master T.K.V. Desikachar and the eminent psychoanalyst Hellfried Krusche examine forty classic sayings, or sutras, from the vantage point of their respective disciplines. Through clear, candid conversations that draw on long experience and are illustrated by case studies from the clinic and the shala, these two experts explain the concepts, terms, forces, and processes in their traditions. Therapists and patients, yoga adepts and professionals, and readers interested in psychology and spirituality will find this unique investigation fascinating, enriching, and useful. In a time when Western and Eastern modalities have ever more to offer each other, Freud and Yoga is a watershed work—one that draws us closer to understanding our own nature and the deep workings of the human psyche.
TKV Desikachar, son and student of T Krishnamacharya had the privilege of living and studying with T Krishnamacharya from 1960 until Krishnamacharya's death in 1989. For over 50 years, TKV Desikachar has devoted himself to teaching yoga and making it relevant to people from all walks of life and with all kinds of abilities. His teaching method is based on Krishnamacharya's fundamental principle that yoga must always be adapted to an individual's changing needs in order to derive the maximum therapeutic benefit. In addition to the three decades of yoga training he received from his father, TKV Desikachar holds a degree in structural engineering. One of the world's foremost teachers of yoga and a renowned authority on the therapeutic uses of yoga, TKV Desikachar continues to oversee KYM's work in therapy as well as training and guiding the faculty of KYM. After an extraordinary life of service and healing, Sir TKV Desikachar reached the lotus feet of the lord on 08 August 2016 at 2.45am India Time.
I am amazed by how much Desikachar discloses here. Some of the criteria he shares for evaluation of teachers, students and the close description of relationships within yoga practice.... well, this is the kind of thing have long I thought of as secret knowledge. It's the sort of understanding that of I've only pieced together in relationship with my own teacher over the past 15 years. Desikachar has always been open, generous, and somewhat opposed to hierarchy and needless hiding of knowledge. That really shows here. The content is inspiring, and the way of organizing the conversation is just beautiful.
There are several little asides that made me cringe - both Desikachar and Krusche revealing their own blind spots about the nature of patients, about how trauma works and about gender. Helps the reader remember that even a conversation about such high ideals is historically contingent and embedded in highly specific social contexts.
For me as an American reader, it's extremely intriguing to have Desikachar's way of thinking explained in print, in English as a primary language (though English is not the first language of either author, it is mine). The foil of the psychoanalytic paradigm brings a whole new layer of insight to the surface. This conversation is a significant contribution to my own understanding of a tradition I've been studying seriously for almost two decades.
The book is dense, so it's hard to track on what's being said and hard to stay interested in it. So much the better.
I really enjoyed reading it, especially as it is written in a dialogue. It does not say that the one or other are ultimate solutions, something that makes both very sympathic. It also shows the similarities and differences of both systems and therefore adds a lot of value.
Indeed, the chapters are structured after the beginnings of the respective Yogasutra chapters, making it understandable also for people new to Yoga.
Worth reading. Brings out the similarities between modern psychoanalytic methods and the concepts and practices in Patanjali's Yoga Sutra. Wish they had covered all the 196 Sutras instead of a few from each chapter.
The framework for Freud and Yoga is a dialogue between two experts that the reader gets to sit in on like a fly on the wall. It is an interesting read for even casual yoga practitioners and helped me understand why after a good class with an excellent teacher it feels like I just finished a therapy session as well. Yoga is so much more than the physical postures and therapy is more than answering “and how does that make you feel?”. These two methods of self-exploration share many commonalities and some important differences. In a year of extreme external changes and turmoil, it can be helpful to focus on internal growth and change using whatever tools work for you. This book helps to understand the tools one develops through yoga practice and therapy. Coincidentally, Krusche now lives and practices in Cologne. To complement this book, I chose green tea as I find it calming and that it aids in self-reflection.