Interview by Evelyn Einhaeuser
According to modern science, much of our unhealthy patterns are stored in our unconscious mind. Does Yoga also distinguish between conscious mind and unconscious mind? And when the Sutras are talking about „mind“, which one is meant?
Yoga philosophy refers to the mind in many different ways. Depending on the function, which it is performing, different terms are used.
For example the mind that is connected to the senses and through which objects are perceived, is termed ‘manas’ mind and is perceived as the most gross mind. The mind structure that identifies objects and puts it into different compartments and identifies with it as well, is usually termed as ‘asmita’ mind, the identification mind. That mind structure that is usually used to rationalize and analyze information is termed as the ‘buddhi’ mind, the analytical mind. Often these three are considered as gross minds or external minds. Deeper than these are the subtle mind structures which include the citta mind, the structure that is able to make deep connections. The linking mind, so to say. Much deeper than that is the mind structure know as Pratyaya. This mind is the one that is capable of transcending boundaries, the one that is capable of deep meditation, or dreaming. And the most-subtle among the mind structures is called as the Sattva mind, which is the silent mind. Each of these mind structures also have their own impressions (vasana-s) and patterns (samskara-s), which are both conscious (cetana) and subconscious (acetana). Yoga philosophy also understands that most of the time we are driven by unconscious patterns. It even purports that often we are trapped by these patterns, and its one of the main reasons why we eventually suffer. And there are huge discussions on these topics in the system of Yoga.
Modern science says that there are three ways to change patterns in the subconscious. The first is habituation, which is doing something every day. Then the second way to reach the subconscious is in a state of hypnosis. Was daily practice also recommended by the Yogis to reach the subconsicous? And is hypnosis also referred to in Yoga?
The concept of habituation is termed in yoga as Samskara. And each of the practices of Yoga are defined as a means to change these Samskaras. This is the purpose of daily practice. Yoga also looks at our human system in a holistic manner. So it teaches that changing habituation in one structure, will eventually impact another dimension as well. So definitely the energetic states are also influenced through practice. However, hypnosis is not so much discussed in Yoga, as Yoga is a self empowering method, where the practitioner is consciously practicing the tools.In a state of super learning or in special energetical states it is said that subconscious patterns can also be reprogrammed.
Does Yoga say the same about the state of samadhi?
Yoga addresses this issue in many different ways. From the point of view of Yogi-s, they understood energy, known to them as Prana, very well. It was a central theme in the path of Yoga. The impact of energy is supreme, as its one of the most subtle entities in our human construct. They understood that changing energy patterns could alter not only body physiology, but emotional patterns as well. From the point of Yoga, every action we display, whether acted out or suppressed, has an energetic pattern. Sometimes these energy patterns are the one’s controlling our behaviour, as they are also habituated within our system. So changing them is critical, as even if there are changes in the gross level, subtle energy structures can still remain. To facilitate these kind of deep changes, the Yogi-s created so many powerful tools, such as Pranayama, Mudra-s, Bandha-s, Mantra-s and Meditation (Dhyanam), which had the capacity to alter the subtle patterns of energy. Also when we use these kind of tools and reach a state of total integration (Samadhi), there is a shift in our consciousness and therefore also a shift in the energetic field.
Which ways does Yoga Therapy offer to change unhealthy patterns?
Like I said earlier, Yoga Therapy offers a holistic approach using multiple kinds of tools that can change patterns, both at a conscious and subconscious level. In the classical system of Yoga, the tools are offered one-to-one as each of us differs in all of these dimensions, and needed approaches that were tailor-made to suit our needs. This is very important to understand, as any method that is therapeutic can only be effective if applied in an individual and context sensitive manner.
What do you experience as the most fundamental unhealthy pattern most people carry and how can we change it?
It is very difficult to say this, as each person is different. But generally speaking in my experience of working with students, the most negative patterns people carry are being a victim, low self-esteem, delusional entitlement, fear and anxiety. Changing them is not often easy, as negative patterns carry more power and inertia than the positive patterns. But yoga offers four categories of tools that can help in changing these. These are Ahara (dietary changes), Vihara (cultivation of healthy lifestyle patterns), Bhavana (positive attitudes) and Sadhana (practice of Yoga’s tools).
When do unhealthy patterns become what we call as trauma?
Trauma is a name given to an event that creates hopelessness and despair in the individual, and leaves a long term impact that is usually negative. But the key thing in trauma is that it leaves behind a feeling of disconnection from oneself and therefore the world, and hence creates unreal perception of the world, and therefore unreal responses to deal with it.
What is trauma according to Yoga?
In a simple way, trauma according to Yoga is a state of disconnection from your spiritual core. Is trauma a spiritual disease then according to Yoga?Definitely trauma is a spiritual illness as it disconnects us from our spiritual core, and hence does not allow us to lead a life filled with values that are guided by the spiritual center.
How does Yoga Therapy work on trauma?
This is not a simple issue to answer. The experience of trauma is very unique to each individual. In some cases Yoga only acts as a pacificatory method in alleviating the symptoms. In other cases it can be more effective to address the deeper impacts left over by trauma. A comprehensive approach is needed over a long term to actually help patients with trauma. It is important that those with trauma also seek the support from other systems of healing such as psychotherapy or psychoanalysis and medical care as is appropriately needed. In my work with trauma students, I have seen that Yoga plays a key complimentary method in addition to other systems of healing. Trauma is often quite complicated and it is easy to understand that perhaps not one system may have all the answers. Working with students with trauma has taught me to be humble and learn that disease is far more complex than we can imagine and hence we need to be open to all avenues of help.
How can we address transgenerational trauma?
This is a very important aspect in Yoga Therapy, to address the issue of trans-generational trauma. In Yoga and other fields of healing from Vedic philosophy, the role of ancestry in inheriting patterns and impressions is treated with utmost respect. Yoga believes that sometimes, traumatic experiences need not come from our own life, but can also come from previous generations. For example, I am working with a student who has a rash on her forearm, that often shows up when she is anxious or stressed. Through psychotherapy, Yoga Therapy and also some self-inquiry, she found out that it may perhaps be related to her grandmother’s experience of trauma as a holocaust victim. The location where the young woman got the rash was exactly the same location as her grandma’s arm was branded with the numbers. Yoga addresses these kinds of trauma through its potent tools like Mudra-s, Bandha-s and Mantra-s, as well as other tools such as Yajña-s (ritual-s). But these need a long term work between the care seeker and a competant teacher, through a relationship based on trust, care and respect.
Self love is seen by many people as an important concept for overcoming negative patterns, as many of them are linked to too little self love, self value and self appreciation. Is the concept of self love existent in Yoga?
Love is a tricky word to translate into Yoga’s language. However, self-respect and self-connection are probably two concepts that come close and they definitely play an important role in Yoga. In so many ways Yoga teaches us to respect and honour ourselves for who we are, and what we are capable of becoming. Yoga does not preach us to become like another, but rather teaches us to become the best we are capable of. This way the deep connection to our self is an important lesson. When we disconnect from ourself, or disrespect ourself and try to become someone else, then we are going against our inherent nature and there is deep conflict. Not only at a surface level, but also at a very deep level as well. This is one of the origins of negative patterns and diseases, which are originating from self-negation. And this can create a lot of suffering for us. THANK YOU.