Human beings are animals of patterns. We all have habits or patterns that Yoga philosophy refers as samskaras. These are patterns not only which are external but also which are internal. For example, our body not only has a pattern of behavior to body language and communication, but also our perceptions, our thought processes to view the world etc. All these are what is called conscious or subconscious samskaras or patterns. These come not only from cultural and educational learning but also from the impressions that we arry from our past i.e. the collective impressions that we carry from our past. This is called Vasana-s. Vasana-s are basically impressions that we have accumulated from the past in our life as well as from our ancestors through whom we have been born, we have been created and we carry their impressions as well through what is called blood.
All of these shape our reality and the way we interact with our reality, the way we perceive our reality, the way we respond to our reality. So reality is a very subjective concept for our existence. That is why sometimes we are in trouble because the way we perceive something may not be actually consistent with the reality of what is existing. For example, somebody may perceive this room as warm, somebody may perceive this room as cold, but the fact is that the room is at a particular temperature. The reality of the experience is the subjective one and the way we respond to it is subjective as well. Somebody may feel warm and take the sweater off and the person who is feeling cold may like to wear a sweater.
The same happens in our reality and its manifestations in different parts of our life. What we see as danger may not be seen as danger by somebody else, what we see as pleasure may not be seen as pleasure by somebody else. That is why Patanjali reminds us that reality is a subjective experience.
Sometimes based on this subjective experience we get trapped by these patterns and we start to suffer. We repeat our patterns because it is taking less energy because the patterns are already programmed in us and to follow that pattern is much more easier. Sometimes we repeat these patterns and falling once again in our suffering trap. That is why Patanjali says we have to replace the old patterns with new ones. We have to replace the patterns which are inappropriate with patterns which are appropriate.
Tajya Samskaraha anya samskara pratibandhi: Tasya prashanta vahita samskarath
There are many references that Patanjali gives which are telling us that we have to replace the old and more inappropriate patterns with new appropriate patterns. This is the path of Yoga where we are replacing disturbed patterns what is called “Udhdhana Samskara” with patterns of stability called “nirodha samskara”.
Achieving this through Yoga is not a simple and direct way. Yoga offers in a very holistic manner. For some people, we may have to use body exercises through Asanas, diet changes, through certain gestures like Nyasa-s etc where we are changing the pattern through physical medium because sometimes these patterns are imprinted on the physiological construct.
For some other people, we will have to use certain energetic practices such as Pranayama, Mudra-s & Bandha-s etc. For certain others, we have to practice through meditative practices or mantra practices so that the imprints that are in the mental psychological structure change as well.
So Yoga is essentially the way where we are changing unconscious and inappropriate patterns into conscious and appropriate patterns. That is precisely the role of Yoga in mankind. This is precisely why Yoga was presented many many years ago because if we get taken over by unconscious patterns we become victims of the patterns and we fall in sufferings again and again. To become free from these patterns we use the holistic tools of Yoga.
By Dr.Kausthub Desikachar, Viniyoga Teacher