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A functional framework of the human mind: Yoga and Cognitive Neuroscience

Why should one be inter­est­ed in study­ing the Yoga Sutras? While the pri­ma­ry pur­pose of the Patan­jali Yoga Sutras is to guide advanced seek­ers on the spir­i­tu­al path, it is also a sci­ence of the human mind and there­fore per­son­al­ly rel­e­vant to every one of us. Gain­ing deep­er insights into the func­tion­ing of the mind can help us under­stand our­selves bet­ter, design a mean­ing­ful life for our­selves, improve our atten­tion, cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties, work with greater cre­ativ­i­ty and effi­cien­cy and also cre­ate more har­mo­nious rela­tion­ships with friends and fam­i­ly. When the Yoga Sutras are stud­ied togeth­er with mod­ern cog­ni­tive psy­chol­o­gy and cog­ni­tive neu­ro­science, it can lead to numer­ous ben­e­fi­cial appli­ca­tions in diverse fields such as neu­ro­science research, men­tal health treat­ment, teach­ing and learn­ing meth­ods in edu­ca­tion, lead­er­ship, human resource man­age­ment, entre­pre­neur­ship and social work. The list can go on longer, but let’s stop here for now!

A few terms before we begin

Before we dis­cuss the human mind as described in the Yoga Sutras, a few terms need to be clear­ly explained so that we know that they refer to the same process in both cog­ni­tive psy­chol­o­gy as well as Yoga psy­chol­o­gy. The con­cepts in Yoga psy­chol­o­gy can then be described using these terms. This would enhance one’s under­stand­ing of the two schools of thought and facil­i­tate com­mu­ni­ca­tion between them.

Sen­sa­tion refers to the process of detec­tion of sen­so­ry infor­ma­tion by the sens­es. For exam­ple, sound is a pres­sure wave that has alter­nat­ing regions of high and low air pres­sure. In the inner ear, the cochlea receives these sound waves in the form of mechan­i­cal vibra­tions. The hair cells in the cochlea con­vert these vibra­tions into elec­tri­cal nerve sig­nals which are then trans­mit­ted to the brain for inter­pre­ta­tion.

Per­cep­tion refers to the process by which the brain inter­prets the infor­ma­tion record­ed by the sens­es. Per­cep­tion involves the con­scious expe­ri­ence of the sen­sa­tions. Per­cep­tion is a process that is a lev­el above sen­sa­tion.

Cog­ni­tion refers to men­tal activ­i­ty that involves trans­for­ma­tion of stored infor­ma­tion. In oth­er words, infor­ma­tion about the world is acquired through the sens­es and stored in mem­o­ry. Cog­ni­tion occurs when asso­ci­a­tions and impli­ca­tions (for exam­ple, cause and effect cor­re­la­tions) are made about observed events or facts. Cog­ni­tion is a high­er order process com­pared to per­cep­tion.

Thought comes under cog­ni­tion since it is a com­plex men­tal activ­i­ty based on accu­mu­la­tion of expe­ri­ence, knowl­edge and skill.

Atten­tion refers to focused aware­ness of rel­e­vant infor­ma­tion, while fil­ter­ing out unwant­ed infor­ma­tion.

Emo­tion is a strong feel­ing that affects all men­tal process­es and behav­ior.

With that, let’s get straight to the heart of the mat­ter.

Yoga psy­chol­o­gy

Purusha and Prakri­ti — co-exis­tent prin­ci­ples

The Yoga Sutras of Patan­jali accept the frame­works of Sankhya phi­los­o­phy to describe the human mind. Sankhya is a dar­shana, a San­skrit word mean­ing ‘view’ or ‘obser­va­tion’. The Sankhya dar­shana is a view of the uni­verse and the human being. It is one of the six pri­ma­ry sys­tems of Indi­an phi­los­o­phy. Accord­ing to the Sankhya dar­shana, the fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ple in the uni­verse is called purusha, pure con­scious­ness with­out a begin­ning or end. All of cre­ation emerged from the cre­ative poten­tial inher­ent in con­scious­ness, known as prakri­ti. Prakri­ti is unman­i­fest, immutable and eter­nal. Prakri­ti does not have any ori­gin; it is the pri­mor­dial source of all oth­er 23 evo­lutes, which make up the entire uni­verse.

The three gunas — satt­va, rajas and tamas

When prakri­ti is unman­i­fest, the three gunas are in per­fect equi­lib­ri­um. The gunas are satt­va, rajas and tamas and they rep­re­sent the qual­i­ties of the 23 evo­lutes. Satt­va rep­re­sents a con­scious, lumi­nous and refined qual­i­ty. Rajas is an impelling, dynam­ic and tur­bu­lent qual­i­ty. Tamas rep­re­sents sta­sis, sta­bil­i­ty and also obscu­ra­tion of con­scious­ness. Satt­va, rajas and tamas can also be looked at as pro­gres­sive­ly decreas­ing grades of con­scious­ness.

The fac­ul­ties of the mind (chit­ta) — bud­dhi, ahamkara and man­as

When there is a fluc­tu­a­tion in the equi­lib­ri­um of gunas with­in prakri­ti, mahat emerges forth. Mahat or bud­dhi refers to the fac­ul­ty of intel­li­gence that can dis­crim­i­nate, rea­son, under­stand and make deci­sions. It is the most sattvic and finest evo­lute of prakri­ti. From bud­dhi, ahamkara evolves. Ahamkara refers to the prin­ci­ple of self-iden­ti­fi­ca­tion with name and form, in dis­tin­guish­ing self from non-self. At this point, the evo­lutes dif­fer­en­ti­ate into the sub­ject and the objec­tive uni­verse.

The sattvic ahamkara cre­ates the man­as, which is the fac­ul­ty involved in basic sen­so­ry lev­el pro­cess­ing and emo­tion­al respons­es to stim­uli. From the man­as evolve the five jna­nen­driya, the sens­es cor­re­spond­ing to audi­tion, touch, vision, taste, smell and also the five kar­men­driya, the motor path­ways cor­re­spond­ing to speech, action, loco­mo­tion, repro­duc­tion and elim­i­na­tion.

The tama­sic ahamkara cre­ates the objec­tive uni­verse. From the tama­sic ahamkara evolve the five tan­ma­tra or sub­tle ele­ments, which are the sub­tle objects of the sens­es. They “solid­i­fy” and become gross ele­ments or phys­i­cal mat­ter. The gross ele­ments are the panch­ab­hutas — space, air, fire, water and earth. They are not to be under­stood lit­er­al­ly from a mod­ern physics and chem­istry per­spec­tive. These ele­ments rep­re­sent dif­fer­ent “den­si­ties” of mat­ter, mov­ing from from the sub­tle to the gross.

The raja­sic ahamkara acts as the impelling force between the sattvic evo­lutes and the tama­sic evo­lutes, by which the sens­es rec­og­nize their objects, the panch­ab­hutas, which make up the exter­nal world of expe­ri­ence. The panch­ab­hutas also make up the phys­i­cal body that is tan­gi­ble to the sens­es.

Thus, the 23 evo­lutes of prakri­ti are bud­dhi, ahamkara, man­as, five jna­nen­driya, five kar­men­driya, five tan­ma­tra or sub­tle ele­ments and five gross ele­ments (Fig­ure 1).

Yoga Sutra II.19 cat­e­go­rizes these 23 evo­lutes as vishe­sha, avishe­sha, alin­ga and lin­ga-matra.

viśeṣa-aviśeṣa-liṅ­ga-mātra-aliṅgāni guṇa-parvāṇi (II.19)

Trans­la­tion: Par­tic­u­larised, unpar­tic­u­larised, assigned-only and unas­signed are the seg­ments among the evo­lutes of gunas.

The man­as, five jna­nen­driya and five kar­men­driya are clas­si­fied as vishe­sha, par­tic­u­larised. Vishe­sha refers to all the final evo­lutes of prakri­ti. They are end prod­ucts that do not pro­duce evo­lutes out of them­selves.

The ahamkara and the five tan­ma­tra (sub­tle ele­ments) are clas­si­fied as avishe­sha, unpar­tic­u­lar­ized. They are evo­lutes that pro­duce fur­ther evo­lutes out of them­selves.

Prakri­ti is called alin­ga. Lin­ga means ‘mark’ or ‘sign’. Prakri­ti is called alin­ga, mean­ing ‘with­out a sign or mark’, as there are no signs by which prakri­ti can be dis­cerned before the move­ment of the three gunas.

Bud­dhi is called lin­ga-matra, mean­ing dis­tinc­tive, with signs that dis­tin­guish­es it. Bud­dhi can be dis­tin­guished as it man­i­fests from prakri­ti as the most sattvic evo­lute.

Fig­ure 1: The mod­el of the human mind accord­ing to Sankhya dar­shana and the Yoga Sutras

To sum­ma­rize the key con­cepts of Yoga psy­chol­o­gy, the jna­nen­driya are the five sen­so­ry path­ways which detect the objects of the sens­es in the exter­nal world. The kar­men­driya are the five motor path­ways which allow one to respond to the sen­so­ry stim­uli. The man­as is the fac­ul­ty of the mind which is respon­si­ble for basic pro­cess­ing and inter­pre­ta­tion of sen­so­ry stim­uli and also for emo­tion­al respons­es. The ahamkara is the prin­ci­ple of self-iden­ti­fi­ca­tion with the body and also takes own­er­ship for actions. The bud­dhi is the fac­ul­ty of intel­li­gence and dis­crim­i­na­tion respon­si­ble for high­er order cog­ni­tive pro­cess­ing, which takes place after man­as presents the first-lev­el processed infor­ma­tion to it.

The Yoga Sutras use the term chit­ta to refer to the entire mind field, which includes the oper­a­tions of all its fac­ul­ties — the man­as, ahamkara and bud­dhi. Chit­ta is also the stor­age space for mem­o­ries of expe­ri­ences. In Yoga psy­chol­o­gy, the gunas — satt­va, rajas and tamas — are an impor­tant frame­work for under­stand­ing vari­a­tions in men­tal process­es between indi­vid­u­als and with­in a sin­gle indi­vid­ual. Since all fac­ul­ties of the mind are evo­lutes, they are com­posed of the three gunas. Hence, vari­a­tions in thoughts, behav­ior, ten­den­cies, per­son­al­i­ty, and rela­tion­ships are due to the dom­i­nance and pre­pon­der­ance of a guna in the chit­ta.

Cog­ni­tive psy­chol­o­gy

The infor­ma­tion pro­cess­ing mod­el

Now, let us under­stand the foun­da­tion­al prin­ci­ples of cog­ni­tive psy­chol­o­gy. Accord­ing to this school of thought, which orig­i­nat­ed in the 1950s, human cog­ni­tion is explained using an infor­ma­tion pro­cess­ing mod­el, which is very sim­i­lar to how a com­put­er works. The process of cog­ni­tion con­sists of an input stage, a pro­cess­ing stage and an out­put stage. The cog­ni­tive process­es in the brain can be dri­ven by the phys­i­cal envi­ron­ment and sen­sa­tion (bot­tom up), or dri­ven by exist­ing knowl­edge and abil­i­ties (top down). Fig­ure 2 shows the infor­ma­tion pro­cess­ing mod­el of human cog­ni­tion.

Fig­ure 2: A con­cep­tu­al dia­gram of the infor­ma­tion pro­cess­ing mod­el of human cog­ni­tion accept­ed in mod­ern cog­ni­tive psy­chol­o­gy. (Adapt­ed from Gage and Baars, Fun­da­men­tals of Cog­ni­tive Neu­ro­science: A Beginner’s Guide, 2nd edi­tion, Chap­ter 1)

Sen­so­ry and per­cep­tu­al sys­tem

The input stage con­sists of the sen­so­ry and per­cep­tu­al sys­tem. Sen­so­ry stim­uli in the form of sound, touch, form, taste and smell are record­ed by the sens­es, con­vert­ed to elec­tri­cal nerve sig­nals and sent to the brain for inter­pre­ta­tion. This is the process of sen­sa­tion. When the brain inter­prets the sensed infor­ma­tion, it is per­cep­tion. At any giv­en moment in time, the brain rapid­ly encodes infor­ma­tion detect­ed by the five sens­es into five sen­so­ry mem­o­ry reg­is­ters. The sen­so­ry mem­o­ries, rep­re­sent­ing a “snap­shot of the envi­ron­ment”, are retained for a very brief for time. The 5 types of sen­so­ry reg­is­ters are:

Echoic mem­o­ry: sound

Hap­tic mem­o­ry: touch

Icon­ic mem­o­ry: sight

Gus­ta­to­ry mem­o­ry: taste

Olfac­to­ry mem­o­ry: smell

Then, atten­tion comes into the pic­ture. Atten­tion focus­es on infor­ma­tion in the envi­ron­ment that is of rel­e­vance or inter­est to the indi­vid­ual and fil­ters out unwant­ed infor­ma­tion. When the indi­vid­ual attends to a par­tic­u­lar object in the envi­ron­ment, the infor­ma­tion is trans­ferred from the sen­so­ry reg­is­ter to the short term mem­o­ry for fur­ther pro­cess­ing. For exam­ple, in a crowd, a per­son could be look­ing out for his friend, and when he finds his friend, atten­tion gets focused on the friend and infor­ma­tion per­tain­ing to the friend alone goes into high­er stages of cog­ni­tive pro­cess­ing. Oth­er objects and peo­ple in his visu­al field are fil­tered out.

Work­ing mem­o­ry

The infor­ma­tion that is attend­ed to in the sen­so­ry field then enters work­ing mem­o­ry, which is a form of short term mem­o­ry with a lim­it­ed capac­i­ty and holds infor­ma­tion that the indi­vid­ual is cur­rent­ly using. It can be com­pared to the ran­dom access mem­o­ry (RAM) of a com­put­er. Depend­ing on the RAM capac­i­ty, we can run only a lim­it­ed num­ber of appli­ca­tions simul­ta­ne­ous­ly. Exceed­ing this lim­it caus­es the com­put­er to slow down. The work­ing mem­o­ry mod­el is one of the most wide­ly accept­ed mod­els of short term mem­o­ry in the field of psy­chol­o­gy and was devised by Bad­de­ley and Hitch, two British cog­ni­tive psy­chol­o­gists.

Work­ing mem­o­ry con­sists of 3 com­po­nents:

1. Phono­log­i­cal loop, which is described as the “inner ear”, stores and process­es sounds. It involves silent rep­e­ti­tion of words men­tal­ly, a process termed artic­u­la­to­ry rehearsal. For exam­ple, silent rep­e­ti­tion hap­pens while read­ing and learn­ing.

2. Visu­ospa­tial sketch­pad, which is the equiv­a­lent of the phono­log­i­cal loop for visu­al stim­uli. It stores and process­es visu­al images and spa­tial infor­ma­tion. For exam­ple, remem­ber­ing where one kept his book in a room, remem­ber­ing the face of a friend. Spa­tial mem­o­ry can involve infor­ma­tion from oth­er sens­es such as sound and touch as well.

3. Episod­ic buffer, which links the work­ing mem­o­ry with long term mem­o­ry and is respon­si­ble for bring­ing infor­ma­tion stored in the long term mem­o­ry into con­scious aware­ness for the cur­rent process. The episod­ic buffer is also capa­ble of bind­ing new infor­ma­tion in the work­ing mem­o­ry to the infor­ma­tion stored in the long term mem­o­ry.

The long term mem­o­ry is sim­i­lar to the hard disk of a com­put­er; it has a vast capac­i­ty for stor­ing infor­ma­tion. There are two main types of long term mem­o­ry, declar­a­tive and non­de­clar­a­tive. The declar­a­tive mem­o­ry is fur­ther clas­si­fied into episod­ic and seman­tic.

Episod­ic mem­o­ry — refers to mem­o­ries of actu­al life expe­ri­ences and wit­nessed events

Seman­tic mem­o­ry — refers to con­cep­tu­al knowl­edge and gen­er­al facts that one has learnt over long peri­ods of time

Non-declar­a­tive mem­o­ry refers to acquired skills like writ­ing, lan­guage, walk­ing, con­di­tioned behav­iors, and habits.

From a neu­ro­science per­spec­tive, the hip­pocam­pus (Fig­ure 3) is a cru­cial struc­ture that is involved in the con­sol­i­da­tion of long term mem­o­ries, and this process can take days, months or even years. The hip­pocam­pus is itself not the region where mem­o­ries are stored. Rather, it orga­nizes and con­sol­i­dates mem­o­ries in oth­er regions of the brain, such as the tem­po­ral lobe. Its loca­tion and con­nec­tion to oth­er areas of the brain enables it to play the cen­tral role in cre­at­ing new mem­o­ries. It con­sol­i­dates mem­o­ries by acti­vat­ing all fea­tures of a mem­o­ry at the same time and bind­ing the fea­tures togeth­er. As a sim­ple exam­ple, dif­fer­ent fea­tures of a fruit are its shape, size, colour, tex­ture and smell. The hip­pocam­pus can also bind new infor­ma­tion from work­ing mem­o­ry with exist­ing knowl­edge in the mem­o­ry by acti­vat­ing both simul­ta­ne­ous­ly.

Fig­ure 3: A cut-away view of the brain shows sub­cor­ti­cal struc­tures hip­pocam­pus (cru­cial for mem­o­ry con­sol­i­da­tion) and amyg­dala (the emo­tion cen­ter in the brain). (Image cour­tesy:

The cen­tral exec­u­tive and atten­tion allo­ca­tion

The cen­tral exec­u­tive is the cen­tral proces­sor of work­ing mem­o­ry and its name under­scores its fun­da­men­tal impor­tance. It is sim­i­lar to the cen­tral pro­cess­ing unit of a com­put­er. The cen­tral exec­u­tive is the dri­ving force in atten­tion reg­u­la­tion and is respon­si­ble for allo­cat­ing atten­tion­al resources to the var­i­ous com­po­nents of work­ing mem­o­ry. In cog­ni­tive psy­chol­o­gy, atten­tion is looked at as a lim­it­ed resource that can get deplet­ed due to exer­tion of men­tal effort and restored through rest and relax­ation. The func­tions of the cen­tral exec­u­tive are called exec­u­tive func­tions.

There are three core func­tions of the cen­tral exec­u­tive:

1. To focus atten­tion on a par­tic­u­lar task, while ignor­ing (inhibit­ing) dis­trac­tions. This func­tion is also called inhibito­ry con­trol. For exam­ple, focus­ing on study­ing for an exam while ignor­ing stim­uli com­ing from social media apps in one’s cell phone.

2. To switch atten­tion between dif­fer­ent tasks. This func­tion is impor­tant for cog­ni­tive flex­i­bil­i­ty. For exam­ple, leav­ing behind a demand­ing task like cod­ing to attend to an urgent or impor­tant phone call from the boss and com­ing back to the task to com­plete it.

3. To divide atten­tion between dif­fer­ent tasks. For exam­ple, talk­ing on the phone while dri­ving.

Based on these 3 core func­tions, the cen­tral exec­u­tive is respon­si­ble for a wide range of com­plex high­er order func­tions such as rea­son­ing, prob­lem solv­ing and under­stand­ing pat­terns and rela­tions among ideas, which are col­lec­tive­ly called flu­id intel­li­gence. Goal set­ting, plan­ning, deci­sion-mak­ing, reg­u­lat­ing behav­ior to attain goals and self-mon­i­tor­ing are oth­er impor­tant exec­u­tive func­tions.

There is strong evi­dence that the activ­i­ty of the cen­tral exec­u­tive is locat­ed in the dor­so­lat­er­al pre­frontal cor­tex (shown in Fig­ure 4). Exten­sive neu­roimag­ing stud­ies have shown that the frontal lobes of the brain (locat­ed just behind the fore­head) are respon­si­ble for most of the exec­u­tive process­es. The frontal lobes are part of a net­work of brain regions known as the pari­eto-frontal net­work, which involves the pari­etal cor­tex and frontal lobes. These regions are involved in atten­tion and inhi­bi­tion effects which are fun­da­men­tal to exec­u­tive process­es.

Fig­ure 4: The cen­tral exec­u­tive net­work in the human brain mapped through exten­sive neu­roimag­ing stud­ies. It sup­ports most of the exec­u­tive process­es. (Image cour­tesy:

The infor­ma­tion pro­cess­ing mod­el of human cog­ni­tion is also sup­port­ed by neu­ro­science. The sen­so­ry organs detect sen­so­ry stim­uli from the world and trans­mit the sig­nals to per­cep­tion cen­ters in the brain. For exam­ple, in the case of vision, the per­cep­tion region is the occip­i­tal lobe at the back of the head. The processed infor­ma­tion of visu­al stim­uli then pass­es for­ward from the per­cep­tion cen­ter in the occip­i­tal lobe to the atten­tion cen­ters in the pari­etal lobe (top of the head). The infor­ma­tion pass­es to the mem­o­ry cen­ters in the tem­po­ral lobe (beneath the tem­ples), where visu­al stim­uli are matched with visu­al mem­o­ries and recog­ni­tion occurs. High­er lev­el rea­son­ing and thought process­es take place in the frontal lobes. Although this is an over­sim­pli­fied descrip­tion, it shows how the infor­ma­tion pro­cess­ing mod­el in cog­ni­tive psy­chol­o­gy cor­re­sponds well with how the brain process­es infor­ma­tion.


Cog­ni­tive psy­chol­o­gy rec­og­nizes the sig­nif­i­cant influ­ence that emo­tions have on cog­ni­tion. An emo­tion is a strong feel­ing that changes the phys­i­cal and men­tal state of an indi­vid­ual and affects his or her cog­ni­tive func­tions and behav­ior. Emo­tion affects how things are per­ceived, how events are encod­ed in mem­o­ry, abil­i­ty to pay atten­tion, learn­ing, deci­sion-mak­ing and behav­ior.

From a neu­ro­science per­spec­tive, the amyg­dala (Fig­ure 3), a struc­ture that is close to the hip­pocam­pus is cen­tral to emo­tion process­es. It plays a key role in under­stand­ing and appre­ci­at­ing emo­tions dis­played by oth­er indi­vid­u­als as well as express­ing one’s own emo­tions.

The amyg­dala and the hip­pocam­pus share a close rela­tion­ship and the amyg­dala can mod­u­late the func­tions of the hip­pocam­pus, enabling one to store emo­tion­al­ly charged mem­o­ries.

The amyg­dala is espe­cial­ly known to be involved in fear relat­ed pro­cess­ing and is cen­tral to trig­ger­ing fight-or-flight respons­es. For exam­ple, dur­ing dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tions, emer­gen­cies or stress­ful sit­u­a­tions.

Com­mon threads in Yoga psy­chol­o­gy and cog­ni­tive psy­chol­o­gy

It is quite easy to observe com­mon threads run­ning through both Yoga psy­chol­o­gy, cog­ni­tive psy­chol­o­gy and cog­ni­tive neu­ro­science.

Cog­ni­tive psy­chol­o­gy con­sid­ers sen­sa­tion and per­cep­tion as rel­a­tive­ly sim­ple, low lev­el men­tal process­es. Emo­tions cor­re­spond­ing to fight-or-flight respons­es are also con­sid­ered to be a low lev­el process essen­tial for sur­vival that devel­oped very ear­ly in evo­lu­tion. Cog­ni­tive process­es involved in work­ing mem­o­ry and exec­u­tive func­tions are con­sid­ered to be of a much high­er order. The frontal lobes of the brain are also high­ly evolved and devel­oped much lat­er in evo­lu­tion. From a Yoga psy­chol­o­gy per­spec­tive, man­as is involved in low lev­el pro­cess­ing of sen­so­ry stim­uli and basic emo­tion­al respons­es. The man­as then presents the infor­ma­tion to the bud­dhi, the high­er order intel­li­gence which dis­crim­i­nates, rea­sons, makes asso­ci­a­tions and deci­sions. The dif­fer­ent lev­els of infor­ma­tion pro­cess­ing in the mind are clear­ly out­lined in both sys­tems of psy­chol­o­gy.

Anoth­er com­mon thread is that of intel­li­gence. Stud­ies have shown that peo­ple have sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ences in the work­ing mem­o­ry capac­i­ty. The work­ing mem­o­ry span is a mea­sure of the capac­i­ty of a person’s work­ing mem­o­ry and is mea­sured by psy­chol­o­gists using a test. Stud­ies have shown that work­ing mem­o­ry span cor­re­lates strong­ly with intel­li­gence. Research has also shown that work­ing mem­o­ry span pre­dicts people’s abil­i­ty to under­stand texts, children’s aca­d­e­m­ic per­for­mance, per­for­mance on rea­son­ing tasks and even per­for­mance by Air Force pilots. Neu­ro­sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly, a high­er work­ing mem­o­ry span cor­re­sponds to neu­rons in the brain func­tion­ing more effi­cient­ly. From a Yoga psy­chol­o­gy point of view, work­ing mem­o­ry and func­tions of the cen­tral exec­u­tive are sim­i­lar to the func­tions of the bud­dhi, the intel­li­gence. In par­tic­u­lar, the bud­dhi in its sattvic nature allows for the opti­mal devel­op­ment and expres­sion of human intel­li­gence.

In this arti­cle, we main­ly focused on dis­cussing the mod­els of the human mind as per Yoga psy­chol­o­gy as well as cog­ni­tive psy­chol­o­gy in order to get an overview of the con­cepts and orga­niz­ing prin­ci­ples. A com­bined knowl­edge of frame­works from both sys­tems of psy­chol­o­gy can help us bet­ter under­stand how Yog­ic prac­tices can help us improve spe­cif­ic aspects of our men­tal func­tion­ing and design our life the way we wish to. Future arti­cles will focus on more spe­cif­ic prin­ci­ples from the Yoga Sutras, dis­cussed in a sim­i­lar man­ner in the con­text of mod­ern cog­ni­tive psy­chol­o­gy and how they can be rel­e­vant to our every­day life.


Bryant, Edwin F. The yoga sutras of Patan­jali: A new edi­tion, trans­la­tion, and com­men­tary. North Point Press, 2015.

Arya, Pan­dit Ushar­budh. Yoga Sutras Of-Patan­jali With The Expo­si­tion Of Vyasa. The Himalayan Inter­na­tion­al Insti­tute: Penn­syl­va­nia (1986).

Bharati, Swa­mi Veda. Yoga Sutras of Patan­jali (with the Expo­si­tion of Vyasa),(Vol. II: Sad­hana-Pada). (2001): 860.

Smith, Edward E., and Stephen M. Koss­lyn. Cog­ni­tive psy­chol­o­gy: Pear­son new inter­na­tion­al edi­tion: Mind and brain. Pear­son High­er Ed, 2013.

Baars, Bernard, and Nicole M. Gage. Fun­da­men­tals of cog­ni­tive neu­ro­science: a begin­ner’s guide. Aca­d­e­m­ic Press, 2013.

Hills, Peter J and Pake, Micheal J. Cog­ni­tive psy­chol­o­gy for dum­mies. John Wiley & Sons, 2016.

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