Yoga in the West
Why has Indian Yoga become so popular in the West? What is its particular allure? What are the health benefits of Yoga—physically, mentally, and spiritually? Does Western Yoga need a philosophy of non-dualism? What might a Jungian analyst have to teach about Yoga in the West that has not already been said by Eastern swamis, teachers, or gurus? Many psychiatrists and psychotherapists recommend Yoga or Zen or mindfulness practices to patients because they see the psychotherapeutic benefits of such methods. They have been scientifically proven for millennia to still the mind and cure it of impatience. I heard from a colleague recently, a Jungian analyst, who told me she recommends Hatha Yoga classes to eight out ten of her patients in private practice. Eighty percent is a high percentage! As an analyst, she also focuses on dreams and their interpretations. I find it useful as a Jungian to recommend, moreover, to some of my patients the practice of Yoga, which is very popular here in the Bay Area. Yoga seems to be growing ever more widespread in this region by the day. But Yoga without an understanding of the importance of dreams lacks substance and insight. Dreams are the breath of life. Our understanding of Yoga is much too literal in the West, I feel. It needs a solid grounding in embodied awareness of the Self in all of its aspects, especially the body. Swami Vivekananda brought Vedanta up to date with current trends in modern psychology; he modernized Indian Yoga with a psychological teaching that was both pragmatic and dream focused. He brought Yoga to the ground. He included a practical point of view that was pedagogic and personal. Vivekananda was one of India’s best teachers of non-dualistic Advaita philosophy, and his simple instructions about how to begin the exercise of Pranayama are down to earth and very practical. Although I’m not a certified yoga instructor and do not teach breathing practices, while I’m working as a Jungian analyst, I have, at times, explained to patients the benefits of disciplined breathwork, which, under expert supervision, can lead to a change in the activities of the central nervous system. The effects of such changes in the body and mind and one’s sense of well-being during and afterward are noteworthy. Yoga and meditation and breathing practices are so beneficial because they slow down the activities of the sympathetic nervous system and activate the parasympathetic system, which slows down rhythms of the heart, relaxes internal organs, reduces and, in some instances, temporarily eliminates anxiety and depression, puts the body in a state of relaxation and relative peace and bliss. This can be an antidote to symptoms of hypertension; it may reduce distractibility of the mind, improve mental concentration on one’s work, and lead to deep inquiry into questions about what one really wants, which is what the Self wants from us. It can also lead to a greater sense of detachment, letting go, and reflection. I have occasionally recommended Yoga classes to some of my patients and have seen some positive results.
Swami Vivekananda and C. G. Jung: Yoga in the West.
“In a series of deeply researched and eloquent books, Jungian Analyst Steven Herrmann has explored the American roots of depth psychology and the innovative concept of spiritual democracy, a non-dual and integrative spirituality that emphasizes individual experience and values all religious traditions equally. His latest book deepens this project by examining the influence of Swami Vivekananda on William James and his distinctly American psychology of direct experience, with a parallel inquiry into the impact of Vedanta on Jung’s thought and the development of depth psychology. Although Dr. Herrmann has done a great service in tracing these interconnections, the book is far more than a historical account. Building on this rich heritage, it lays the groundwork for an integrative Western yoga or “path of sacred action” that draws on the thought of Vivekananda and Jung. Using different language, James, Jung and Vivekananda articulated a vision of the superconscious or Higher Self that inculcates virtues and truths that guides individuals and, in our current circumstance, can help the human race to avoid destruction. Dr. Herrmann shares this deeply intuitive vision and wears his learning lightly, interweaving dreams, synchronicities and insights arising from his longtime emersion in depth psychology and yoga. As such, his latest book is an invaluable study of Eastern and Western approaches to higher levels of consciousness and spiritual democracy that reaches across disciplines and traditions.” ―John Ensign, Ph.D., Jungian Analyst and Spiritual Director
“Jung was twelve and a half years younger than Vivekananda and outlived him by more than fifty-nine years. Jung never met Vivekananda physically. But the ideas do meet face to face and Steven B. Herrmann in his monumental work Swami Vivekananda and C. G. Jung: Yoga in the West proved a meeting of two distant, opposite minds is possible, if they are strong upright personalities though they come from the ends of the earth… Here the synthesis of East and West is made by a qualified Jungian Analyst who understands “Mind” as no other. Interestingly the synthesis is subjective. Mr. Herrmann is a Yogi and true seeker. The words in his book are like a running stream of rivers, lively, very much alive. Here is a book that will work as a bridge like Breath works as a bridge… The book connects East and West like the Universal Prana connects to each living beings on earth. Yoga in the West has specific significance for modern day Indians. Modern University students and professors in India know less about Vivekananda than about Carl Gustav Jung. This book says more to Indians about Vivekananda from the perspective of a Jungian psychoanalyst, Yogi, and scholar of Indian philosophy. This is what I like about this gentleman: his Honesty. Any reader who goes on with mindful breaths while reading this work will experience this. The idea of present-day Indians about Swami Vivekananda is extended to Infinity. In India, Vivekananda is sometimes considered wrongly a Hindu nationalist. This notion or idea about Vivekananda has become just the opposite in this work. This book, if read in its entirety dispels this notion about Vivekananda and for this on behalf of whole Indian subcontinent and fellow Asians, I thank personally Dr. Herrmann for his painstaking efforts to bring about the true face of Swami Vivekananda in his extensive work. ―Netiputra Daivangaya Kaundinya (Aka Dillip Kumar Mahapatra) Managing Director of Klevex (India) PVT. LTD
“Greetings, Steven. I sure am appreciating your book! Thank you for this incredibly scholarly work affirming our most universal visions of our world while also grounding them in the everyday practice of taking a breath and having it taken away. What an accomplishment! Such a pleasure to read since it engenders spaciousness!" A week later, Dr. Asher wrote further: “I just finished reading your erudite, inspiring, taking-in-breath, book! Quite a read! Your mind is spacious enough to include this bigger mind of Vivekananda who you have been able to meet and grow from as you unfold your own vocation. Your acknowledgement of him lifts up the vision of his person and his work to remind us of that which is beyond what we know with our usual way of knowing. You have the vision to acknowledge this greater vision than what is usually seen. And why would a radical empiricist, James or Jung, not enlarge the empirical map of the subconscious or collective unconscious to include the experience of this All-Encompassing Oneness found in the Many that would help us all live together in harmony? This experience, often found in our vocational dreams, is as factual as any of our materialistic reductions, just as “solid” and trustworthy… There are so many beautiful passages in the book as you “sing” your own song, share your dreams, breathe fresh air into the world, affirm nature, vision, possibility, acknowledge the individual’s vocation as found in dreams. The book so well balances your personal story with your scholarship. You are so well aware by way of Jung of the dangers of inflation when the ego would especially assume it could stay in a state of identification with the superconscious. Of course, there is also the danger that we don’t breathe in enough air and undervalue ourselves and gifts as well. Not much spoken about that in traditional Jungian circles. I could go on from memory with so many impressions. So much has been “impressed” upon me like those famous wax tablets by this writing of yours. I know in your book you continue to fulfill your vocation as well. I hold the evidence in hand―all 705 pages of it! May God continue to bless you on your journey and call you forward into what will yet be for you and our world. With gratitude and appreciation for you and your vocation.” ―Charles Asher, D. Min., Certified Jungian psychoanalyst, licensed Marriage Family Therapist
Book orders for my 2022 book "Swami Vivekananda and C. G. Jung: Yoga in the West" may be placed at my Publisher's Website: