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The Teachings of Yoga (Part 3: Un-coloring Your Thoughts – Cont.)

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras – Chapter 1: (Un-coloring Your Thoughts; Sutras 1.6 thru 1.11)

Yoga Sutra (1.6)pramana viparyaya vikalpa nidra smritayah. The five types of thought patterns to witness are:

  1. 1. Correct knowing (pramana)
  2. 2. Incorrect knowing (viparyaya)
  3. 3. Fantasy or imagination (vikalpa)
  4. 4. The void-ness that is deep sleep (nidra)
  5. 5. Recollection or memory (smriti)

Of the five kinds of thought patterns, pramana, or correct knowledge is the one to cultivate. Incorrect knowledge (viparyaya) or fantasy or imagination (vikalpa) are both made up of thought patterns that may have verbal expression and knowledge, but for which there is no real object or basis in existence. Dreamless sleep (nidra) is the subtle thought pattern which has absence or non-existance as its object. Recollection or memory (smriti) is mental modification of a previous impression.

Yoga Sutra (1.7)pratyaksha anumana agamah pramanani. Pratyaksa is that which is right in front of our eyes (directly seen or perceived). Anumana means that which comes from the intellect (manas, a conclusion). Agamah (from agama), legacy or learning from reliable sources. Pramanani (from pramana), insight, accurate perception; accurate knowledge.

The Yogi learns to witness these five kinds of interfering thoughts (sutra 1.6) with non-attachment, discriminating between these five, and to cultivating the first type of thought, which is knowing correctly (pramana), and there are three ways of gaining correct knowledge:

  1. 1. Perception
  2. 2. Inference
  3. 3. Testimony or verbal communication from others who have knowledge.

According to the oral Yoga tradition, it is taught that you should not simply believe what you hear, but should seek your own direct experience. This is the meaning of the first of these three ways of knowing (Pratyaksa – perception). The second part is that of reasoning (Anumana – inference), whereby you want that experience to be understood in the light of your own inference or reasoning. The third part is that you seek the validation through some respected authority (Agamah & Pramanani – testimony). This might be an oral authority (e.g.; some respected person who has firsthand knowledge) or a written authority (such as the Yoga Sutras or Upanishads).

Yoga Sutra (1.8)viparyayah mithya jnanam atad rupa pratistham. Viparyaya means false perception or false knowledge. Mithya, also false; misleading. Jnanam (root is Jnana) is knowledge, insight. Atad (a-not, tat-that) means “not that.” Rupa is form, nature. Atadrupa means different form. Pratistham (from root pratistha) is rooted, calming, compatible.

All together these words may be translated as “Error arises from knowledge that is based on a false mental construct” or “Incorrect knowledge (viparyaya) is false knowledge formed by perceiving a thing to be other than what it really is.”

Yoga Sutra (1.9)shabda jnana anupati vastu shunyah vikalpah. Sabda means word. Jnana is knowledge. Anupati means consequent upon (real). Vastu can be reality, object, thing or entity. Sunya means devoid or empty. Vikalpah is imagining, illusion or semantic confusion (the illusion that a semantic construct actually exists).

Translated – “Imaginings are engendered by word/knowledge without regard for what actually exists in the real world.” Or in other words; “Fantasy or imagination (vikalpa) is a thought pattern that has verbal expression and knowledge, but for which there is no such object or reality in existence.”

Yoga Sutra (1.10)abhava pratyaya alambana tamo-vritti nidra. Abhava means absence or non-presence. Pratyaya is cognition, impressions (i.e.; impressions in chitta via vrittis). Alambana is support, basis, foundation. Tamo means inertia (Tamas is one of the three gunas or basic properties of matter). Vrtti means lack of clarity (thought waves or patterns). Nidra is deep sleep.

Translated – “Dreamless sleep (nidra) is the subtle thought pattern which has as its object an inertia, blankness, absence, or negation of the other thought patterns (vrittis).”

Yoga Sutra (1.11)anubhuta vishaya asampramoshah smritih. Anu (from), Bhuta (that which has been experienced in the past). Visshaya is experience (or objects of experience). Samasampramosash means neither being stolen or lost. Smrtih is  memory or recollection.

This Sutra is translated to mean: “Recollection or memory (smriti) is mental modification caused by the inner reproducing of a previous impression of an object, but without adding any other characteristics from other sources.” Or more simply stated…”Memory is the recollection (in the current moment) of (past) experienced objects.”

Next in this series, Part 4 (Practice and non-attachment), Yoga Sutras 1.12 thru 16

*Part 1 can be viewed by clicking on: The Teachings of Yoga (Part 1 – Yoga Defined)

*Part 2, here: The Teachings of Yoga (Part 2: Un-coloring Your Thoughts)

Of related interest, click on: The Problem of Thoughts & Yoga’s Solution

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500.

Brain Function – Yoga VS Aerobic Exercise…

It’s time to give a little support to the yogis in the age old “yoga versus exercise” debate. A recent study shows 20 minutes of yoga beats out 20 minutes of aerobic exercise for overall positive effect on the brain’s cognitive abilities.

Studies conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are soon to be published in the Journal of Physical Activity & Health as a peer-reviewed article titled “The Acute Effects of Yoga on Executive Function“, and will summarize their findings in regard to yoga’s effect on cognitive processes (I.e.; working memory, reasoning, problem solving, attention, planning, etc.). The study involved 30 non-yoga practicing undergraduate women who participated in 20 minutes of Hatha yoga, accompanied by meditation and deep breathing as well as 20 minutes of “aerobic activity” like running on a treadmill.

For most, worse than having to run on a treadmill for 20 minutes was the required test afterwards. Researchers had participants do cognitive testing following both the yoga practice and the aerobic exercises to measure working memory and inhibitory control (attention span). And surprisingly (or not), yoga beat the pants off aerobics, especially when it came to brain function.

Lead researcher Neha Gothe (currently a professor of kinesiology at Wayne State University) told the Daily Mail: “It appears that following yoga practice, the participants were better able to focus their mental resources, process information quickly, more accurately and also learn, hold and update pieces of information more effectively than after performing an aerobic exercise bout.” This in opposition to when the participants, in Gothe’s words, “showed no significant improvements on the working memory and inhibitory control scores” after the 20 minutes of jogging or walking on the treadmill.

Now all the scientists’ light bulbs light up because this is cause for further research and investigation. Edward McCauley, co-author of the study and director of the Exercise Psychology Lab where the research was conducted, notes: “This study is extremely timely and the results will enable yoga researchers to power and design their interventions in the future. We see similar promising findings among older adults as well. Yoga research is in its nascent stages and with its increasing popularity across the globe, researchers need to adopt rigorous systematic approaches to examine not only its cognitive but also physical health benefits across the lifespan.”

Of course this is a small (but ground-breaking) study, and there is much more to be explored about the effects of not just physical yoga poses, but the meditation and breathing components of most Western yoga practices (this would be for guys, too). So regardless, this is good news! News, that most students of yoga probably already knew? And besides, you can simply nod your head and smile the next time your runner/jogger friends talk about how amazing their “runner’s high” is and how they don’t really need to do yoga because running is their meditation. (No offense meant for runners. Yoga students love endorphins, too!)

The study does conclude that more research needs to be done on non-traditional, mind-body exercises like yoga (and tai chi, for example) and just how much they seep into the rest of our daily activities when out of the studio or off the mat.

“The breathing and meditative exercises aim at calming the mind and body and keeping distracting thoughts away while you focus on your body, posture or breath,” Gothe told the Telegraph. “Maybe these processes translate beyond yoga practice when you try to perform mental tasks or day-to-day activities.”