An agitated mind (viksepa) manifests symptoms (bhuvah) in: the body through physical trembling and physical discomfort (angamejayatva), in the breath through irregular breathing (svasa-prasvasa), in the mind through negative thinking (daurmanasya) and in the emotions through emotional suffering (duhkha).
PRACTICAL LIVING The previous sutra gave us a list of obstacles we encounter that prevent us from experiencing inner calmness (see Sutra I.30). This week’s sutra describes four symptoms that every human being will experience during a state of distress, when one or more of those obstacles are in our path. Knowing what the symptoms are helps us identify them in the moment they are happening, allowing us to change using one of the tools that Patanjali offers in the rest of the text. Awareness of the symptom is the first step required for us to change. The four symptoms are:
1. Emotional pain (duhkha): a general unhappiness, an emotional discomfort that is often deep-seated and felt on a physical level in the chest region. This emotional pain can be connected to distress, grief, sadness, anguish and a general sense of misery.
2. Mental negativity (daurmanasya): a negative perspective on life, often related to pessimism, sarcasm, a dark mood, lack of self-confidence, and can bring someone to despair and depression.
3. Physical restlessness (angamejayatva): physical unease, often manifested in trembling, shaking, twitching or the inability to be still.
4. Irregular breathing (svasa-prasvasa): whenever the inhale or exhale is disrupted, meaning we are holding the breath or the breath is short and shallow, the breath is said to irregular.
This sutra presents Yoga as a holistic system. These four symptoms are interconnected. When we affect one of the levels (body, breath, thoughts and emotions), the others are affected as well. Yoga works on those four levels. If we are scared or stressed, we feel emotional discomfort (manifested in anxiety, sadness…), leading to negative thinking, manifested in the body depending on where our physical weakness lies (migraines, neck tension, stomach issues…), causing our breath to be irregular (we hold it or we breathe in a short and shallow manner). The breath is more subtle and we rarely pay attention to it. The following are common relationships between the breath and our emotional states:
- anger: forceful and rapid exhalation (like an angry bull)
- disappointment: prolonged exhalation (sigh)
- anxiety: short and shallow inhalations and exhalations
- shock: breath suspension
- calmness: long and smooth breaths
If we can see these symptoms as triggers for awareness, we can learn a lot about ourselves in moments of discomfort. What is making us feel this way? Why have I had neck tension since adolescence? What feelings are associated with this physical discomfort? Once I gain that awareness, I can stop blaming external factors and take the next step and apply one of the tools Patanjali gifts us with!
IN THE YOGA WORLD Here Patanjali presents us with the method of how Yoga views healing: holistic (from body, to breath, to thoughts to emotions). Practically speaking, this means that most of our physical symptoms are manifestations of deep-rooted emotional troubles. Healing in Yoga, therefore, takes time. We do not have magical pills for anxiety, back pain or pessimism. Yoga works with reflection, awareness and action. Through reflection we become aware of many deep tendencies and behaviors we have had that negatively affect our health. That awareness helps us see how we can change and create positive and constructive changes in order to create magnificent lives! Sutras I.32-I.39 mention eight techniques or tricks for calming the mind 🙂
INSPIRATIONAL PERSON Vero lives a FULL life. What I mean by that is that she lives her life with her body, breath, thoughts and emotions fully engaged – and she inspires me for that aliveness! Like for most of us, her life has had its easy and challenging times. What I admire is her ability to grow through the challenging times. Reflection and awareness of deep-rooted emotions have transformed her. She seeks to be a happier, calmer person and actively pursues that. ACTION is a word that comes to mind when I think of this beautiful woman. She acts on life, and that inspires me! Thank you Vero for showing me the amazingness of movement, of change, of transformation, and of living from the heart. Te amo hermana!
Do you have any experiences you would like to share? Please interact as much as you like – everyone will learn from your personal experiences!
Thanks and next week we will look at the first of eight solutions that Patanjali offers to cultivate more inner peace 🙂
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After reflecting on this sutra, I thought of the question, “why is it that I become somewhat anxious when I’m alone in public shopping or just walking down the street?” This isn’t always how I am, but sometimes I get anxious in this situation. After thinking about this, thoughts of my childhood came up. This is pretty personal I suppose, but it probably explains a lot. When I was in junior high, almost everyday down the lunch line this group of kids would call me names and make fun of me. It was a pretty awful year. But after reading this sutra I imagine that’s a huge reason for why I become anxious. I always feel like I’m being judged on how I look or how I act by people that don’t even know me.
Daniel, thanks for sharing this example. Yes, we have deeply rooted memories that stay with us and have a strong influence even decades later. The great thing is that you have awareness of it now, which is the first step in order to change. Write those kids some letters and then burn them…you know the ritual 😉
“After reading this, the battle between me and anxiety came to mind. I struggled to keep my mind and body calm. My mind bounced from one thing to another, not to mention my body as well. Due to, what I diagnosed it as, large amounts of stress my muscles began to spasm irregularly and uncontrollably. Seeking professional help, I was told I had cerebral palsy before getting tests that cause the hypothesis to be negative (a 4 month scare on my end). For years, and including his point in my life, I can recall experiencing all for of the listed symptoms in my misery. I was extremely unhappy with myself (duhkah). The sarcastic ass I did make of myself most of the time and I wasn’t self confident that is daurmanasya. Angamejayatvva or physical restlessness was my twitching muscles. Not to mention I have recently retaught myself how to breath, thanks to my TT program, meaning (svasa-prasvasa) my breathing pattern prior was horrid!! After much practice, and till this day I still occasionally dance with some anxiety, but I fell for yoga and made a complete self-transformation. I don’t know where I’d be today without my love, my practice, to help me though such a difficult time. ‘When life is finally good, you suddenly appreciate the sites you see, the earth you walk, and the air you breath’ –gi.”
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The emotional pain, physical discomfort, negative thinking and disruptive breathing tear the mind apart or cause major distraction/agitation. To me, the emotional pain and physical discomfort will always be there, that we might not have control over. But we can certainly turn negative thinking into a positive mindset; that is, just look at the problem differently by embracing it and having a believe that we can understand it, tackle it and if it’s too difficult, seek help or just let go, and move on. The irregular breathing can be overcome by practice pranayama breathing and yoga asanas. Air is free and vital to the lungs, the heart and the brain. Just breathe in deep and long and breathe our way out of troubles 🙂
Although these symptoms manifest themselves in every person, while reading this I thought of the social circles I run in. Many people start from a place of mental negativity. And many people do not want to move from this position – indeed it gives fuel to the fire of many forms of creativity, and for many, is a form of realism – by having this mindset, many feel that they are seeing reality as it truly is and not from a place of idealism.
I think for people such as those, a challenge is to ask, once I have processed and used this fuel, how can I creatively continue and move forward? I must dig deeper to find a new source for creating and engaging with others.
For me, this is some hard yoga work – I recognize these symptoms, I see the sources, I do my meditation and release of these things I am holding onto, and I look for where that brings me next.
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I went through a period of distress that was a perfect storm of all of these 4 symptoms. A job I had about 3-4 years ago that nearly broke me. Emotionally I was miserable, anxious, felt like I was always doing something wrong because the only feedback we got was negative. Mentally I was often negative and I lacked confidence in my ability to do my job and also balance work life and home life since I was on call and working from home every few weekends with a 2 and 4 year old to take care of. Physically I found it hard to sit still. I also just felt physically unwell because I was so stressed and afraid to leave my desk and waste time eating a healthy lunch, I snacked on whatever junk was convenient so I could keep working. My breathing was shallow and agitated as I just focused on working as fast as I could to get the work done. The solution was to quit that job. I don’t know if even having the Yoga tools I have now I could have made it through that! Remembering that time makes me aware that that is not something I ever want to go through again and I am taking steps by being in teacher training to take control of the direction I want my life to head in.
I also have had a similar experience as JMP. In my job I meet many people who are experiencing the same thing. Having the breathing and tools given us in the yoga sutra has been helpful in getting through difficult circumstances. I wish I had know it earlier in my life, but so happy to have the tools now.
This awareness is KEY! Two times in the last week I have encountered situations that when I saw these symptoms arise, I became aware and addressed them. What once would have made the experience AWFUL I was able to see and recognize my breath, use tools to help them and then move on in a more controlled way! It was incredible to feel that result from breath work and awareness.
The connection between our breathe and our emotional state is amazing. It brought to mind a very difficult point in my life and just reflecting back I could feel my breath getting more shallow and the anxiety. This is an awful feeling. It took focus and pranayama to come back to were I am now.
“Slow down, take a deep breath,” Catch your Breath”, “Just Breathe”. Most of us have heard this from or said this to someone. It’s funny, we all know the power of the breath, and how it can be healing. Just one breath, can change everything. What I have found since I have started practicing Yoga, is I need to notice and pay attention to my breath. My breath is the truth of the place I am in.
There is one person whose mere presence creates so much anxiety that I do experience that physical trembling and discomfort. So thankful to have yoga remind me that this is avidya and that there are tools I can use to get closer to my purusha.
Prakrti is emotion + body. Observing those are key to getting closer to purusha. How do we do that: practice. Happy to hear that the tools are working!
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