Long-Term Changes in Experienced Yoga Practitioners: Growth of Higher States of Consciousness

Long-Term Changes in Experienced Yoga Practitioners: Growth of Higher States of Consciousness

Frederick T. Travis (Maharishi University of Management, USA)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2788-6.ch003
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This chapter explores subjective and objective correlates of the state of Yoga during Transcendental Meditation practice. Yoga fits the three criteria of a higher state of consciousness: (1) Yoga has a different subject/object relationship than other states. In Yoga there is no content—only self-awareness. (2) Yoga involves a more expanded sense-of-self. Content analysis of descriptions of Yoga yielded three themes: the absence of time, absence of space and absence of body sense. Yoga is the most universal aspect of the individual. (3) Yoga is defined by distinct physiological patterns. Slowing of breath, autonomic orienting and frontal alpha1 brain coherence are reported during the state of Yoga. The integration of Yoga with waking, sleeping and dreaming also fits the criteria for being a higher state of consciousness, called Cosmic Consciousness in the Vedic tradition. The chapter ends with the conclusion that growth of higher states of consciousness is the most important result of experiencing the state of Yoga. Then, life is lived in freedom.
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Yoga has become part of main stream Western thinking. Yet, Yoga has many definitions. For some, Yoga involves postures, pranayama and meditation practice (Vinutha, Raghavendra, & Manjunath, 2015). Others understand Yoga as a philosophy with eight limbs that are eight prescriptions for practice (Jois, 1999). While others understand the eight limbs of Yoga to be descriptions of the state of Yoga—once Yoga is attained then one naturally exhibits traits such as contentment, truthfulness, and non-violence (Sands, 2013; Maharishi, 1969).

Patanjali (circa 900 BC) wrote the Yoga Sutra. In the second verse of the first chapter of the Yoga Sutra, he defines Yoga. The verse in Sanskrit reads:

Yoga chittavrittinirodhaha.1, 2

These Sanskrit words can be translated as: Yoga (union), Chitta (mind), Vritti (fluctuations), and nirodhaha (complete absence). When put together, this verse could be translated as: “Yoga is the complete settling of the activity of the mind” (Egenes, 2012). From this perspective, Yoga is not a set of postures or a philosophy. Rather, Yoga is an internal state in which the activity of the mind is completely still. The next verse clarifies that this settled state of mind is not inert, but is the self-referral state of the observer. The verse in Sanskrit reads;


This verse can be translated as “the observer is established in himself” (Maharishi, 1994). From this perspective, Yoga is the simplest form of human awareness in which the experiencer is awake to his own existence (Travis, 2014). It is a self-referral experience, in which the boundaries that define our individuality, such as age, height, gender, and style of thinking are transcended. The mind is wide awake devoid of changing thoughts, feelings or perceptions; one is awake to one Self (Maharishi, 1994). It is like a wave settling down to the ocean, and becoming the ocean.

This chapter uses the term Yoga to indicate the state of Yoga—silent, self-awareness that comprises the “complete settling of the activity of the mind” and the “observer established in himself”. It explores long-term effects of the experience of Yoga. Most scientific research has reduced meditation practice to a tool to combat depression, lower high blood pressure, or improve emotion regulation. While these benefits do occur, the author suggests that the integration of Yoga—inner silence—with outer activity is the most salient benefit of regular experience of Yoga. This is living life in higher states of consciousness. Then Yoga becomes the ground for action as described in the Bhagavad-Gita: Yogastah Kuru Karmani: Established in Yoga perform action (Maharishi, 1969).

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