Abhyasa/practice and Vairagya/non-attachment (Sutra 1.12-1.16)

Le Minh Phuong

The practice of yoga includes deep awareness of habit patterns (samskara). These habits of thinking, feeling, and reacting affect our capacity for joy. The unconscious habit patterns create filters over the reality of the present moment, with the potential of creating distress or suffering. In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the methods of yoga are described as a pathway to reduce the internal machinations that provoke suffering. 

Sutra 1.12 suggests that our thought patterns (vrittis) are mastered, regulated, or quieted (nirodhah) through practice (abhyasa) and non-attachment (vairagya).  The process of persistent, systematic exploration of thought patterns, fears, and false identifications allows for detachment from the filters that enable suffering.  

Abhyasa describes the continuous practice necessary to clear the mind. It cannot be accomplished in one sitting. Clearing the mind requires discipline of consistent attention and time to develop the cumulative power of yoga. It is also true that old habits die hard. The unconscious thought patterns continue to arise. Through continued intentional awareness we can begin to observe these patterns and reduce their impact.

Vairagya refers to the process of letting go of the many attachments our minds accumulate. Panatjali describes these attachments in Sutra 2.5, saying attachments are the thoughts that follow identification with pleasurable experiences. There is no moral judgement about this attachment, rather it is how our minds differentiate between “I” and “other.” Attachment is a natural habit of the mind. The yoga practice is to become aware and witness these natural attachments as thought patterns rather than reality.

“It is not that ‘I’ am attached. Rather, the thought is colored. ‘I’ then identifies with the thought.” Swami Jnaneshvara


Kim has been a student of yoga since 1993 and her training has focused on using movement, breath, and meditation to best meet the needs of the practitioner.  Full schedule here

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