Yoga as an Alternative Prayer Tradition

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Yoga has energetic healing powers that can surpass any drug or other healing therapy. It is one of the many spiritual healing techniques that brings together physical movement with philosophical thinking. This essay discusses the yoga as a system of philosophy with the practice of forms, its emphasis on well being, and as a method of healing. Applications of yoga to stress, positive thinking and emotional intelligence will be analyzed.  Yoga is one of the six classic systems of Hindu philosophy, distinguished from the others by the marvels of bodily control and the magical powers ascribed to it by its devotees. Yoga affirms the doctrine that through the practice of certain disciplines one may achieve liberation from the limitations of flesh, the delusions of sense, and the pitfalls of thought, and thus attain union with the object of knowledge.

Yoga’s primary emphasis is upon general well being. Although yoga has been shown to be beneficial in a variety of conditions, it is not considered a therapy for spe-cific illness. Rather, yoga employs a broad, holistic approach that focuses on teaching people a life style, way of thinking, and way of being in the world.  In the process, how-ever, it is also found to bring a myriad of healing effects. By attending to practices of improving, regaining, or retaining general good health, a person is likely to find that some of the specific difficulties tend to disappear. Many of the healing effects of yoga are clinically verified. One of the most important benefits of yoga is its application in reliev-ing stress, fatigue, invigoration and vitality, its anti aging properties and its application relaxation therapy.

As a healing method the client becomes sensitive to his or her inner ecology. This may include sensitivity to breathing, diet, thought patterns, posture, and areas of tension in the body, habits of relating to others and the world, and so on.  Yo-ga is an excellent way to cultivate self-love and self-acceptance. One day one practices and may feel relaxed, happy, and have a deep sense of inner peace. The next day one may feel tense, stressed-out, or sad. Over time, yoga will make one more limber, relaxed, and healthy, but on a day-to-day basis, one’s condition may vary considerably. This variation is part of the process, so expect it.  As one performs a yoga pose, they simply accept whatever they do and however they feel. Then breathe deeply and fully into the abdomen and chest and feel the energy from that love and acceptance of yourself in the area being stretched. One should not worry if they don’t physically feel the energy from the breath in the area being stretched. Simply use the imagination. The love and acceptance will, over time, gradually grow within one. This, in turn, will speed healing.

Yoga also strives to increase self-awareness on both a physical and psychological level. This allows people to take early collective action, such as adjusting posture, when discomfort is first noticed.  Practitioners and patients who study yoga learns to induce re-laxation and then can use the technique whenever pain appears. Practicing yoga can pro-vide chronic pain sufferers with useful tools to actively cope with their pain and help counter feelings of helplessness and depression.  According to web site http://www.holisticmed.com/yoga, using yoga not only can get us in touch with the physical tension deep within our bodies, but we also get in touch with the emotional tension that is usually very closely tied to the physical tension.  It is a very good sign if one has found a tool to access and eventually help heal emotional tension. Feeling and making peace with emotions can have a tremendously beneficial effect on one’s health. The ideas for working with feeling emotions can be brought up when doing yoga. If the emotion is not overwhelming, feeling involves accepting the emotion fully while breathing deeply into the abdomen. It is all right to feel shy or cry or feel joy, etc. as long as it is not overwhelming. One can definitely talk about these feelings that arise to a close friend, support group, family member, therapist, etc. in order to continue to release the emotions and cultivate self-love and self-acceptance.  With the practice of yoga it is my belief that the happiness and relaxation provide help to ward off the negative effects of stress. We all face sources of stress in our daily lives such as dealing with an illness. Stress can have many negative effects on the body, such as causing sleeping problems and depression. Yoga helps in dealing with stress in a more effective, optimistic way.
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My personal experience with yoga is when I teach or practice ways to overcome speech anxiety. With practice I spend time focusing on breathing, stretching and resting my racing mind. Cultivating self-love and self-acceptance by nurturing me with re-laxation and releasing emotional tension are some of my experiences with yoga.  Other applications of yoga in my professional practices include techniques for reducing stress and enhancing positive thinking and emotional intelligence.  Learning the skills that help the person handle stress is an aspect of yoga that interests me. Coping efforts aimed at the perceived source of stress (problem-focused coping) and efforts to regulate one’s emotion are ways of adapting to a stressful encounter (emotion-focused coping. Emotion-focused strategies are less likely to be used unless problem-focused strategies have also been attempted.

The topic of positive thinking, which is a form of yoga, provides an example of how research can bear directly on key issues. Can we avoid the “negative” in our work? Or is it crucial that practitioners and clients encounter the “shadow” of the practitioner and face it directly? Does it help clients grow spiritually when we encourage them to think positively?  The issue of positive thinking is an illustration shared by persons trying to develop their own spiritual potentials (such as clients) and persons trying to learn what therapeutic approaches are effective (such as therapists and beginning counselors).  I can make a case of positive thinking. The effectiveness of positive thinking in human rela-tionships has been questioned. When is positive thinking an indicator of solid contact with reality, and when is it a sign of denial? The added question is this: When does af-firming a positive view of self result in better functioning, and when does it fail?

Excellent review of research points to aspects of self-affirmation theory (Aronson et al., 1999). According to self-affirmation theory, thought and action are guided by a strong motivation to maintain an overall self-image of moral adaptive adequacy. We want to see ourselves as good and capable and be able to predict and control outcomes.  A counselor’s use of self-affirmation had best not be a phony attempt to persuade the client to feel good in opposition to the evidence. Such attempts backfire. With genu-ine strengthening of self-affirmation, a client can be prepared for stressors in the future. The client can be open and supportive.

Another practical lesson is my ability to be flexible and feel refreshed by con-necting the mind and body while cultivating self-love. The religious implications of yoga are best expressed on www.hosticonling.com/yoga.benefits.htm. “Yoga also produces a more active, willing and generous disposition. It quickens the life of faith, of love of God and our neighbor. It quickens our sense of duty and responsibility as people and, above all, as Christians.” One person, after some weeks of practice, admits he no longer knows himself, and everyone notices a change in his bearing and reaction. He is gentler, more understanding; he faces experiences calmly. He is content; the pinpricks of life affect him less or not at all. He is in command of his own will and goes about his studies without fear and anxiety. His whole personality has been altered, and he himself feels it steadying and opening out. From this there arises an almost permanent condition of euphoria, of contentedness.”  A discussion of yoga as a healing therapy, its practice, forms, and appli-cations to stress, positive thinking, and emotional intelligence has been made. The prac-tice of yoga is functional because it keeps the self from being overwhelmed. It may be functional to minimize negative information, at least until the person has rebounded from its impact.  Yoga as a concept within the field of spirituality is effective in relation to positive thinking and emotional intelligence. Yoga promotes the quality of the relation-ship with the counselor which may be more important than a solution early in the session. With yoga and other healing methods it is relevant to use the client’s religious and spiri-tual in transpersonal beliefs in pursuit of the client’s therapeutic goals and to demonstrate empathy for understanding the practice of yoga as relevant to spiritually sensitive coun-seling.

My anticipated practice of pastoral community counseling is multicultural counseling.  Multicultural counseling is the skilled and principled use of relationships to facilitate self-knowledge, emotional acceptance and growth, and the optimal development of personal resources. The overall aim is to provide an opportunity towards living more satisfyingly and resourcefully. Counseling occupies a central place in western approaches to pastoral care because it promotes the ability to express and explore thoughts, feelings, and behavior that makes the counseling process work.  As best practice, multicultural counseling practices such as yoga demonstrate a tangible and positive impact on the individuals and populations served by being sustain-able and responsive and relevant to counselee and to cultural and environmental realities. Multicultural counseling is client-focused, including gender and social inclusions. Multi-cultural counseling as a western healing art is an integrative service that is efficient and flexible in addressing issues of identity health.  Healing in multicultural settings is the establishment of a state of psychological, emotional, and spiritual well being. It involves the creation of a sense of peace and wholeness and tends to be an internal process activa-ted by one’s own inner wisdom.

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