CFT & Yoga

Dr Sunil Lad

Consultant Counselling Psychologist

Yoga means union. Currently modern yoga practise is often seen through the lens of exercising or stretching the body. However it comes from an ancient tradition of breathwork, meditation and guidelines for ethical living. Within CFT we recognise that the environment in which we live in shapes how we may express emotions from a young age.  

We receive feedback on what is deemed acceptable or you may get punished, rejected or criticised for certain responses, or expressions of emotions and behaviour. This also leads to the development of shame. Within the modern world we are giving a wealth of information on what is seen as acceptable and attractive, which can also lead to the development of shame if you are not born or have those characteristics.

The practise of yoga is often a journey. My personal experience was that it became a safe way for me to move as I was spending much of my day in the therapist chair. I’d gone with the intention to improve my fitness, potentially to achieve some flexible body postures and feel good about myself. With time I started to develop a better relationship with my body recognising when in a difficult pose how my body has gone into the threat system, but also how my breath had become constricted. 

With practise I started to learn to slow down my breath, which helped me to focus away from critical thoughts and beliefs, that I was being judged by others, and that I was unable to do poses recognising that I was in a competitive state of mind and body.

As I started to apply CFT principles to my yoga practice I recognised which of the three systems I was in at the start of a practice. This made a qualitative difference to how the practice went and how I was feeling at the end. This required practice as I could become easily distracted or would practice in my mind just following instructions rather than tuning into my breath and body. The practice of yoga can help to embody compassion through gaining awareness of relationship between mind and body.

Through my experience of both CFT and yoga I have found they have complemented each other and helped me to deepen my experience of CFT through the body through interoception. It has informed me and those I work with on the importance of being compassionately embodied. To develop the resources to connect with the body which in turn helps to develop skills in distress tolerance, and sitting with suffering.  

The ancient text of Patanjalis Yoga Sutras which is seen as an important text to understand and follow the path of yoga notes that Yoga is “Citta Vritti Nirodha”. The translation from Sanskrit to English is that yoga is a cessation and the clearing of the mind stuff. It could be argued these are the fears, blocks, resistances and compensatory strategies that prevent living in a life that is embodied and embedded in compassion. In that the experiences we have life lead to ways of living that take us away from a path of compassion.

Dr Sunil Lad


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