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Thoughts on thoughts....

The mind is constantly moving and changing. This constant change is known to be called fluctuation or "vritti". If you have studied the right limbs of yoga before, you will know the definition of yoga according to Patanjali is:

'Yogash-chitta-vritti-nirodhah'- the ability to calm the fluctuations of the mind is yoga.


There are five main fluctuations of the mind that affect our present moment consciousness:

Pramana: Correct knowledge

Viparyaya: Incorrect knowledge

Vikalpa: Imagination

Nidra: Sleep

Smrti: Memory

Of course, we all think, day dream and continuously lose our connection with the present moment. It is natural, it is part of what makes us human! These days, it feels like we are living in constant connection with one another yet being the most disconnected from each other. So if we can start to understand the 5 ways our mind moves, we can start to recognise those thoughts that serve us and those that do not. Each of these fluctuations can serve as a purpose, they can help and sadly hinder.

Correct knowledge

This can help us do the right thing at the right time. On the other hand, we can also do the right thing for the wrong reason. The correct knowledge can be used in harmful ways too. By using what we know to get something we want, perhaps even if that means harming others. Also, we can often seen things done with the best of intentions at heart but turn out drastically wrong.

Incorrect knowledge

This can be helpful at times to learn, to find patience and relearn something new and we can learn to surrender to being wrong. Of course, incorrect knowledge can be harmful, for example in a yoga class, insufficient knowledge can be detrimental to students and teachers alike.


This is crucial for invention of anything! Ideas, theories, books, writing, drawing, painting, dancing, yoga and everything else! What a fantastic and complex fluctuation to have at our fingertips! It also can lead to many thoughts of self hatred, feeling of lacking, always wanting more, never being satisfied, not being enough or worthy.


This is crucial for survival, simply without enough sleep we cannot perform effectively in life. However, too much sleep can be detrimental to our well being, we can become lazy and lack lustre for life.


This is amazing. Think about it... all those years you have lived, the things you have experienced, the wonderful image and feelings, the sense of nostalgia. What about those bad memories? Those feelings of heart break, sadness, loss? Those things you can't find the way to let go of yet and could potentially effect your next decisions in the now. Those memories are ones that cause us current day suffering. When we do not understand how to learn to let go, memory can be harmful.



Honestly, I do not think it is about whether the vrittis are good or bad that makes them worthy of study. It is their effect upon the state of our mind that is of interest to us. These changes of the mind obscure the view of our real self. We get lost in thought and move away from ourselves and what is really happening, right here, right now.

If you have ever met me, you know I work in metaphors, always! It helps me understand the world and make emotions and dealing with them relatable and understandable to all.

Let's take the idea of the blue sky [our minds] when clear of clouds [thoughts/distraction], we see it clearly [reality/present moment]. However, with even a small cloud [thought] caused by a vritti [fluctuation/distraction] the sky [mind] is no longer clear, we can no longer see things as they actually are.

This idea is kind of beautiful, because when the sky is completely obstructed with clouds we know that the sun and the clear blue sky never ceases to exist, that it is eternally behind all the clouds most importantly we all know...


Knowing that these five vrittis are operating during your practice on and off your mat can help you increase your ability to understand, witness, sit with and move through them. Being aware that the mind moves in notable and observational ways, gives you a way to understand what is real and useful and what is inhibiting us from living our fullest lives.

Knowing that these 'vrittis' exist gives you the opportunity to watch for them and nurture them accordingly.



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