Combining modern psychotherapy techniques with ancient yoga practices isn’t a stretch for Chaminade graduate Christina Soo Hoo ’18. In fact, it’s as natural as breathing.
Soo Hoo was earning her master’s degree in Counseling Psychology while serving as an instructor with CorePower Yoga, which operates three studios on Oahu. She says lessons learned at Chaminade make her a better yoga teacher, and wisdom gleaned from yoga will make her a better therapist.
“I find similarities between yoga and counseling all the time,” Soo Hoo says. “The skills that I learn from both will be great for people who need help.”
It’s all about becoming more mindful, she explains. And skills for achieving this self-awareness can be developed in various ways, including psychotherapy sessions, yoga classes and meditation.
“Those are skills, depending on the type of client you have, that you try to inspire within them,” Soo Hoo says. “Because if they have that awareness, that ability, they typically will have more ingredients to find a path toward healing.”
Obviously, there are many differences between psychotherapy principles and yoga philosophy. But Soo Hoo also encounters a remarkable number of similarities – both on campus and on her mat.
For instance, psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud believed the human psyche consists of the id, ego and superego. Yogic philosophers also divide the psyche into three parts: the conscious mind, unconscious mind and intuitive mind.
Psychologist Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs progresses from physiological necessities to self-actualization. Yogis believe in a similar path, beginning with body awareness and culminating in a blissful state of spiritual enlightenment.
Moreover, certain therapists treat victims of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder using techniques that calm the body and mind. That’s a lot like yoga nidra, or yogic sleep, which produces a deep state of physical relaxation without a loss of consciousness.
Soo Hoo’s group therapy classmates know all about yoga nidra. With Chaminade’s encouragement, Soo Hoo guided them through this meditative exercise with the goal of increasing mindfulness. Most students remained awake during the session but a few dozed off.
“The ones who fell asleep had dreams and visions,” Soo Hoo says. “One of them actually drew me a picture of what he saw. Then one or two of them talked about seeing lights. It was really interesting.”
Soo Hoo, an Arizona native, seems well suited for blending East and West, ancient and modern. Her father is a physician specializing in occupational medicine. And her mother is a traditional healer focusing on spiritual growth.
After graduating from Chaminade and becoming a licensed psychologist, Soo Hoo wants to take her holistic therapy approach to the next level. She hopes to open a wellness center that unites a wide range of health practitioners, including Western medical doctors, Native Hawaiian healers, Ayurvedic professionals, acupuncturists and, of course, yoga therapists.
After all, Hawaii is a melting pot of cultures. And a treatment that helps one client may be inappropriate or off-putting for someone else.
“The ultimate goal is to empower the person and provide them with a safe environment where they can grow,” Soo Hoo says.
“You are your best teacher,” she adds. “Other teachers push you in the right direction, but they know this is your journey.”
The Master’s of Science in Counseling Psychology (MSCP) program is part of the School of Education and Behavioral Sciences. The program includes three concentrations: School Counseling, Mental Health Counseling, and Marriage and Family Counseling. MSCP prepares graduates for careers in community and school settings. Graduates assist children, youth and adults in adapting to various educational, family, organizational and societal demands. The program includes the foundational use of standards established by the National Board for Certified Counselors and Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.