Dr. Mariana Caplan — Does Yoga Work? |382| Share Tweet Dr. Mariana Caplan think yoga is just what psychology and psychotherapy needs. photo by: Skeptiko Alex Tsakiris: Welcome to Skeptiko where we explore controversial science with leading researchers, thinkers and their critics. My guest today is Mariana Caplan, who has a new book, Yoga & Psyche. Mariana, welcome. Thanks so much for joining me. Mariana Caplan: It’s a pleasure to be here, I’m looking forward to it. Alex Tsakiris: I am too, I was so excited to read this book. I am such a yogi and I have been such a yogi for so long, and I think that anyone who’s ever stepped on the mat and had a sense that more is going on than just these poses. Mariana Caplan: Great, so my whole adult life has been spent studying, practicing and teaching in these parallel traditions, though I really do prioritize the role of student, when we’re talking about something as vast as yoga or as deep as the psyche, which is connected to the world of psychology. Alex Tsakiris: …make the case for yoga and psychology. What’s the science? What’s the most compelling science that you cite in the book that you think makes the case? Mariana Caplan: So, with two doctoral students several years ago, I worked to survey all of the academic research to date at that time. Not only in yoga and psychology, but yoga and neuroscience, yoga and trauma, trauma and psychology, mindfulness and psychology and so forth. And we surveyed over 200 published academic articles and we summarized it for people. Essentially there’s ample scientific documentation. But yoga, even without the psychology, this most basic practice of physical postures for a period of time, minus all the extra goodies that I think are so enhancing, addresses and has proven to be beneficial for, just name a handful; anxiety and depression, eating disorders, suicide prevention, autoimmune disorders, wellbeing, attention deficit disorders, there’s a huge list. All the sciences summarized in a people friendly way in the book. But basically, the science has shown yoga’s benefits on most major categories in the DSM, which is the Diagnostic Statistical Manual, it is the most mainstream and useful, in many ways, text to survey all the psychological disorders known in the western world. (later in the interview) Alex Tsakiris: …and until we’re real about this and real about the causes of why psychology has gone down this pharmacological model and has pushed it, even when the data comes back and says, “Hey, depression, mild depression, this multi-billion-dollar industry, it is not more effective than placebo, but we still sell billions of dollars of this.” So, I love that you say, “Maybe we’ll just grow out of this and keep going guys” but, maybe not, these guys have a strong financial interest in keeping things the way they are. So, what are the changes that you’ve seen in your career and how can we expedite it? Don’t we need to call these people out? Mariana Caplan: I agree with everything you said. When we talk about calling these people out, it brings an image of amorphic “them”, and for me, I don’t know how to do that. So, I do what I do know how to do, which is… Alex Tsakiris: I know who they are because I talk to them all the time. One of the things I try to do is invite them on this show and I get guys like the NYU Professors of Psychology who will say categorically, that I’m wrong and that consciousness is a function of the brain, and here’s how it works, and the neurological model is winning and all of the rest of that. So, it’s not just playing around when I say “them and us”, it is “them and us”, it’s an ideological divide. If you’re giving people high doses of psycho pharmacy crap, then you’re doing that because you’ve bought into that model, you’re them. That’s not to say there aren’t places and instances where it’s useful, but I mean come on, there is a them. Mariana Caplan: Yeah, I don’t disagree, I was just saying for me, when I look at that, I don’t know what to do. So, maybe this is my optimist, but I look at what I can do. I can research, I can write, I can share, I can touch individuals, I can touch groups, I can touch larger amounts of people through writing and when it’s done in a very grounded, pragmatic way, with some scientific research included, it’s going to speak more effectively.