On the Tension of the Opposites

Yoga + Depth Psychology - On the Tension of the Opposites

“The way to healing . . . lies in finding a connection between body and soul. Soul needs body as much as body needs soul. Each is out of context without the other, an abandoned fragment of what it is” ~ Marion Woodman

There is this tendency of the mind to get stuck on things being one way or the other way, this or that, yes or no, good or bad. It wants to cling to what is known, which most easily falls into this black or white space. Anything in between is crossing into the unknown which generally causes discomfort. And as beings that crave comfort, we try to avoid displeasure or anything that feels weird or awkward. I used to do this all the time, heck, I still get stuck in this space. However, it was through my yoga practice that I gained knowledge of the beauty of the tension of the opposites.  

According to B. K. S. Iyengar, creator of Iyengar yoga, the word yoga comes from the Sanskrit word yuj which means “to yoke,” “to come together,” “to join,” “bind,” or “to integrate”; “it also means union or connection.”  

The founder of analytical psychology, Carl G. Jung stated that yoga, “in its training of the parts of the body, . . . unites them with the whole of the mind and spirit. . . . It works the physical and the spiritual into one another in an extraordinarily complete way.”

Yoga is the union of mind, body, and soul; it aims to move one towards wholeness.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, are an ancient text about yoga, Patanjali embedded his wisdom about life into these sutras (sutras translates to sutures or threads).

Yoga Sutra 2.46 reads Sthira sukam asanam

Sthira translates to steadiness, strength, or effort.

Sukha according to late Indian Sanskrit texts roughly translates to sweetness, joy, pleasure, or happiness.

This sutra translates to every yoga posture needs to be balanced with effort and ease. This means that every yoga pose embodies the tension of the opposites or dualistic (oppositional) energies (push/pull, extension/contraction, forward/back, strength/ease, engage/release, masculine/feminine, yin/yang).

Reflection:

How can you allow both oppositional energies to exist within you at the same time?

What needs to happen? What needs to shift?

What do you need to let go?

What do you need to allow in or to be?

While holding these oppositional energies in each yoga pose, we can find balance and peace, in the in between space. In yoga and depth psychotherapy, the goal is to bring awareness to the union of mind, body, and soul.

Further Reflection:

What is causing you pain?

What are you attached to?

What are not letting go of?

What is getting in your way to being more at ease?

Are you suffering? How are you suffering?

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Arati Patel, LMFT

Hi, I’m Arati Patel, a licensed marriage and family therapist with a passion for helping individuals heal, feel calm, and move towards wholeness. I have specialized interests in working with anxiety, stress, fear, self-doubt, first generation issues, cultural stress, and identity issues. I currently have a private practice in Los Angeles, CA.


Recommended Reading:

Jung, C. G. (1969). Yoga and the West (R. F. C. Hull, Trans.). In H. Read et al. (Eds.), The collected works of C. G. Jung (Vol. 11, 2nd ed., pp. 529-537). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Original work published in 1936)

Iyengar, B. K. S. (1966). Light on yoga. New York, NY: Schocken Books.

Satchidananda, S. (2011). The yoga sutras of Patanjali. Yogaville, VA: Integral Yoga.

Woodman, M. (1998). Coming home to myself: Reflections for nurturing a woman’s body and soul. Berkeley, CA: Conari Press.