Writers International Edition

Dr. K. V. Raghupathi

Vision and Mission of Life

We are living in a world afflicted by insecurity, fear, dishonesty, corruption, immorality, and other vices. Therefore, the question arises, how to lead a meaningful life amid all these vices? Before we examine to answer this question that haunts every human being, let us first deal with the world we have created. It is a mistake to view it as a problem for a group of people. It is everybody’s problem. We have to first accept the world we have made. There is no escape from it since everyone is a part of it and has contributed to its making. It is absurd to blame a particular group or a nation, or an individual. Accepting the world as we see is the first step toward leading a meaningful life. It will bring a drastic change to the content of our consciousness, not the consciousness. Consciousness is the underlying principle and we cannot change it. It is static. Only the content is dynamic. We can change only the content that we have created and imposed on it. Not accepting it is contradicting it and it will cause conflict and waste of energy. But we do not accept the reality and therefore, we are in constant conflict with it.

Our vision, therefore, is to create a meaningful life in a world filled with all vices. We need to create a mission to realize this vision. We should work out this mission at the individual level, not at the collective level, since every one of us has contributed to the making of world filled with vices in one way or the other. Seeking solutions collectively will not work out. What is the mission to realize our fundamental vision being how to lead a meaningful life?

The first sutra in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras has been just this, “…Now, an exposition on Yoga” (I.1 Atha Yogansusanam). This half-sentence or rather incomplete sentence sums up what has gone before now in our life and the present state of the world in which we are, and therefore, the urgency of the practice of Yoga. What has gone before from now in our life is not worthy to be considered. It does not, however, mean that we can ignore the present state of the world. The present world is a reality, and it is right before us and we are all living in it. We cannot retrieve or undone what has gone before. But we can alter the condition in which we are now. Therefore, the urgency of Yoga is conveyed in this half cryptic sentence. It is a strange way of starting the remaining Sutras, what is yet to follow in one’s life, signalling or warning that life has been incomplete because one has not lived through Yoga. Hence, the urgency of the practice of Yoga. It also shows the complexity of the practice of Yoga because of the complexity of life that we have made for ourselves. Human science has not thought of such a dimension. And this science is the science of the self—body and mind, and nothing else, not about the matter outside.

            “Now” in the half-sentence also indicates that if Yoga is not practiced, now and here, it is forever never.  It is now and here, and not tomorrow. It also cups the complexity of life and its seriousness – now or never.  Why Patanjali had warned humanity of the seriousness and urgency of looking at human life two thousand years ago.  This complexity is not today’s phenomenon, but it had existed in Patanjali’s times.  If we cannot realize who and what we are, if we cannot solve our own crisis, now and here, no one else will rescue us, some danger ensues – the body may get diseased, the mind may turn neurotic and thereby life becomes crippled and useless.

             “Now” also suggests that Patanjali is directly warning us to look at our life and the world – the way we have created and the way we have lived through pain and suffering.  All through life this pain and suffering have persisted, the insecurity and fear caused by vices have haunted us.  And how long can we go on with this pain and suffering, insecurity and fear?  Is there no way out?  Are we condemned to live with pain and suffering?  Are we condemned to live in this world afflicted with insecurity, fear, dishonesty, and corruption? Therefore, the urgency to overcome pain and suffering, insecurity and fear in life has risen through Yoga.  If we still believe that finding a comfortable job with a fat salary or starting a new venture that makes us fabulous in living, or finding a new wife or husband, or building a palace-like house and going for a luxurious car, or getting our daughter married will settle our life, or multiplying wealth by expanding business ventures, it is not yet time for Yoga, then we have mistaken.  But, if we have seen money, power, wealth, and pleasure, we have tasted everything in our life and at the end of it, we have realized that all this has worked out nothing for us in the real sense and fulfilled us nothing ultimately, then it’s time for Yoga.  This is the implication of half-sentence.

          Patanjali brushes aside all that human undertakes and undergoes in life with half a sentence.  Life is incomplete and unfulfilled.  That is why the first Sutra is “… And now, an exposition on Yoga”.  That means we realize at the end nothing works and we do not have a clue about what the hell this is, the pain and suffering tear us apart and the ignorance too.  Then Yoga happens to us.  Now, there is a way to know and learn and practice.

  To lead a meaningful life (this is our vision), our mission should start with our bodies and move to our minds. Why should we give so much importance to the body? The body is a form without which we are nothing. We have no existence. Therefore, the body has gained prime importance in the yoga sadhana. When we are alone, what is with us? Who is with us? It is the body, visible, like the shadow, which is our companion, not our kith and kin. The body is a fundamental thing in understanding our own life. We need to accept this; the body is with us and without it we are nothing. In this body dwells the mind, which is invisible. If there is no body, there is no mind. Therefore, we should first deal with the body. The body is intelligent and has its own language. It feels and communicates every sensation. It answers and resists. It accepts that which is acceptable and rejects that which is not acceptable. But in our day-to-day living, we have paid scant attention to it. We hardly listen to it, its music, its complaints, its resistance, and so on. As we neglect, the body grows in its own way, disproportionately. We should keep this body in perfect order, being in good health and condition so that we can carry on our actions and activities in the world. We can proceed in our Yoga sadhana without hindrances from the body. If the body falls ill, we can hardly do any sadhana. Hence, the health of the body has gained serious attention.

          We maintain the health of the body with physical exercise and the right food. Why do we need exercise for the body? The answer is to keep it in good condition so that no disease enters it. We can do any form of physical exercise, say walking, jogging, running, swimming, or playing games to maintain our fitness. But what makes the difference between the said physical exercises and performing asanas and pranayama? The former is an outdoor activity whereas the latter an indoor activity. The physical exercises activate the external parts of the body, while the asanas the internal parts. Each cell is activated and rejuvenated. As we direct each asana to a particular part of the body, it activates the muscles around, eliminates the toxins from the cells and tissues. Pranayama activates the nadis (nerves) and purifies blood by pumping more oxygen. When the toxins are removed, the body becomes elastic, and such a supple body can withstand any illness or disease.

But we cannot achieve the health of the body only by doing exercise. Food also plays a vital role. If the right food does not properly accompany physical exercise, the body cannot maintain its good health. So, health arises not only from exercise but also from consuming right food. What is the right food? The right food is that which nourishes the body and checks the influence of negative emotions which cause serious disturbances in our sadhana and mental agitations besides hampering our health. Consuming sattvic food containing fresh greens, raw vegetables, fruit, dried nuts, dates, milk, and millets will go a long way in making the body healthy and preparing for Dharana and Dhyana

  Next comes Dharana and Dhyana. Dharana can happen by the withdrawal of the sense organs from unnecessarily indulging in sensual pleasures. This is known as Pratyahara, the fifth limb in Astanga Yoga. Pratyahara can, however, happen if the body is in good condition, which can be achieved by asana, pranayama, and food. As we maintain moderation in our pleasures, it leads us automatically to Pratyahara and Dharana (concentration). Dhyana can easily happen. Since our body is free from disease and negative emotions, it is ready to sit in one posture without moving, steadily and comfortably, and meditate. So, each limb is connected to the other limb. This way we can achieve the vision of life, making life meaningful, and mission of life, creating a semblance of order, in the world afflicted with diabolical vices.

Dr. K.V. Raghupathi

Dr. K.V. Raghupathi is an ardent Yoga Sadhaka in Patanjali’s tradition, having over four decades of sadhana. He has been writing and transmitting his experiences born out of his uninterrupted sadhana in books and articles. He has so far published five books on Yoga that include, Yoga for Peace (2006/2019), Yoga and Zen (2007), My Tryst with Yoga and Other Essays (2018), Hastha Yoga: Theory and Practice (2018), and Dispersing Clouds: Discourses on Yoga (2022) and many articles both online and print journals. His other radical book on Yoga, Think with Heart and Feel with Mind: (from the Yoga Diary of…) is in the pipeline. An outspoken speaker, he holds radical views on life and spirituality. In addition, he is a creative writer, having twelve books in poetry, two novels, two short story collections, and eight critical/edited books to his credit.

Creating a Meaningful Life in Digital World through Yoga

What is a Digital World?

We are living in a digital world. Technology is all around and our life is completely mechanised. We have witnessed several revolutions such as the industrial revolution, the green revolution, the white revolution, and so on. The Information Technology revolution is what we are facing with its serious implications.  The world is becoming more and more digital. Today we can do many things without human assistance, sitting at home which we could not have dreamt of a few years ago.  ‘Work from home’, ‘learn from home’, and ‘online examinations at home’ have become norms of the day. The influence of digital technology is overwhelming and inescapable.  

We are ruling the world through ideologies and fighting wars for supremacy. But technology is ruling imperceptibly both the world and us. No nation can afford to ignore it and no society can survive without it. Similarly, there is no human area that is not affected by technology. Even art, literature, and music are inescapably in the grip of technology. The danger of it is that our actual intellectual faculty is replaced by artificial intelligence. In this way, a human can be reduced, controlled, and manipulated into a human-machine. Those who oppose it have to do so through technology. It has become an integral part of our lives. It is imperceptibly expanding its regime entrapping everyone. It is increasingly becoming impossible for us to escape from its fold. It is the rule of technology, called ‘technocracy’, coined by Theodore Roszak, an American academic. The horrific danger of it encompassing all human life has been beautifully captured by Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory who observed: “And there will be nobody left almost to remind them that there was once a species called a human being, with feelings and thoughts.  And that history and memory are right now being erased, and that soon no one will really remember that life existed on the planet” (Rosak xi).

What is a digital world or society? A society that uses digital methods increasingly in their daily life, i.e., online communications, is called a digital society. The users are called digital citizens. Digital technology includes common technologies such as a smartphone or computers but also encompasses a large range of other products or services such as home security or home automation. The digital world is about fast connections between us and the world. We get more easily connected with our families wherever they are on the globe, our communities, our nation, and the rest of the world. Every big city, medium-sized city, or smaller town is increasingly adopting technologies like Big Data, the Internet of Things and sensors. More devices are connected to the internet than humans. Approximately three billion people now use the internet. About five billion people use mobile phones. This number may go up as the population increases. According to a survey conducted in America, on average, a mobile user spends five hundred hours sending messages and using the net per month. It is estimated that 26 billion “things” are connected to the internet. This number is expected to increase by 125 billion just by 2030. These internet things have transformed the operations of many industries, both consumer and enterprise including that energy, transportation, healthcare, etc., in addition to shaping every sphere of human life. There is no doubt, therefore, that digital technologies probably are seriously affecting more aspects of our lives than we are aware of…

Positive Consequences of Digital Technology

Digital technologies are playing such a large part in our lives. They have advanced more rapidly than any innovation in our history – reaching the developing world’s large population in only two decades and transforming societies. It promises to provide everything for the fulfilment of desires except feelings and emotions. By enhancing connectivity, financial inclusion, access to trade and public services, technology has become a great equaliser. These visible changes are welcome because no one can stop the probing human mind. As universities and colleges in the world are multiplied, knowledge coming from the hands of professors and researchers also increases astronomically. 

New digital tools have allowed us to write, compose, draw, to communicate in ways we could never have dreamed of doing before. With 3D printing, we can print houses more creatively. Prosthetic limbs are printed making them cheaper and therefore more accessible, more colourful, and more personalized.  The Internet of Things can connect anything from the soil on a farmer’s land to a space station and can share information.

We can use our digital connectedness against us. As the global population is becoming much more digitally connected, most firms have adjusted their marketing strategies to maximize their consumer engagement. These new media and communication technologies have made a significant impact on the advertising industry with the rapid advancement in technology such as mobile phones and the internet. In the past, companies relied on traditional media outlets such as radio and print in order to attract customers and build a reputation for themselves. They can now use digital technology to achieve this instantly, target customers, and can easily exploit them. Sometimes, this targeted advertising is found intrusive and quite creepy.

Maia Haworth, a fellow writer for the Digital Society publication, has discussed “programmatic” advertising in the business world and it has become a buzzword that many people use but few really understand. According to her, it uses the data to develop algorithms and automate the buying, placement, and optimization of advertising. (https://medium.com/digital-society/programmatic-advertising-131556a79174) Since the rise of the internet in the early 2000s, there has been a great shift from traditional advertising media (television, newspaper, and radio) to digital media (computers, mobile phones, etc.). Television commercials are extremely competitive, expensive, and dominated by big companies. With the growing use of the internet, new doors have opened for advertisers to reach smaller, niche markets and appeal to consumers through online cyberspace. This has helped to disperse ads across multiple platforms, thus lowering the costs of traditional media outlets. Programmatic advertising has helped create a sense of trust by utilizing consumer behaviour data to predict which audiences are most likely to be interested in a product.

Negative Consequences of Digital Delusion

So, what are the catastrophic consequences of using these digital technologies? Apart from the wasted money spent on unsuccessful or unnecessary products, even using ‘successful’ technologies can have far-reaching implications. These can be positive when they enable us to manage our life more efficiently, but how smart technologies we use in the home can also lead to much more sinister side effects. Someone can easily hack our emails and the data stored in WhatsApp and other Apps without our knowledge. The information can be easily passed off to third parties for processing before responding with natural language responses. Technology has ushered in a new service called Artificial Intelligence (AI).  Talking about it, Shoshana Zuboff says, “We thought that we search google, but now we understand that google searches us. We assumed that we used social media to connect, but we learned that connection is how social media uses us… we have begun to understand that ‘Privacy’ policies are actually surveillance policies” (Malhotra xxii).

Human is losing the sense of originality so much that we have integrated new media into our daily life and our agenda and our goals are shaping, shifting, and transforming every moment. The notions of relationship, connection, and friendship are changing rapidly. The digital world is transforming homo sapiens into mere living robots, connecting always with digital media and technology. As mentioned in The Routledge Companion to Digital Consumption, “…Our flesh and blood are now mixed with circuits and devices.  We have become wired and wireless selves, homo connectus, always logged on.” (4)  Greengard states, “We’re seeing people so absorbed in digital media that I’s becoming their primary reference point for life” (17-19).  Hunter prophesies, “Credible predictions suggest that within a generation, we may have computers a million times more intelligent than every human combined.  Artificial intelligence will far surpass human beings as the most capable lie forms on the earth: ‘machines’ will calculate, communicate and act so quickly that humans would not even comprehend what they are achieving.  Integrated with advances in non-biological intelligence, we will surely witness revolutionary changes in energy sources, nano-technology, bio-technology and robotics” (Prabuddha Bharata. May 2021).

Digital technology is a tool and we can use it both for constructive and destructive purposes. Using technology depends on the user. If he uses it with heart, it is for the betterment of society. The real worth of technology lies in its proper use.  Its widespread misuse results in more harm than help. While narrating a woman with a smartphone being knocked down in the middle of the road, which was shocking, Nancy Colier, a psychotherapist, interfaith minister, author, and public speaker observes: “Technology is the powerful tool for the communication and yet the way we are using and the authority we are awarding it are also making it into a powerful impediment to our sense of presence and awareness” (xiv).

When we become slaves to technology, human life becomes absurd and irrelevant.  As a result, one loses love and respect for life and looks upon everything and every creature with contempt and cynicism. The lack of respect, love, and warmth are the root cause of many mental maladies prevalent in society at present. Though we are close physically we are distanced emotionally. We are closer to the persons behind the screen than to the ones beside us. If we are separated from one another by spending hours with technology, where else we are supposed to learn to be humans? “Biophilia hypothesis,” as developed by Emrys Westacott, suggests that “human beings have a deep-seated impulse to affiliate with other life forms” (131).

The Absurdity of the Spiritualists’ Concerns

No doubt digital technology has made our lives easier, or more efficient. There are, however, many side effects of digital technology such as technology addiction, time loss, isolation, lower academic performance with students, depression, stress, loss of creativity, physical diseases such as hypertension, back pain, spondylitis, low sugar level, and neurotic disorders. Against the backdrop of these ill effects, spiritualists raise the following pertinent questions: isn’t it time we consider to what extent its use of it is ethical? What is more astonishing and shocking is that we as digital consumers develop a self that is distinctly different from our real nature, resulting in chaos and misery in our lives. So, how to make our lives meaningful in a digital society?

These questions may sound meaningful to the people, particularly the people who claim themselves as spiritualists. But certainly, look absurd.  The spiritualists always voice their deepest concerns as they see that society is moving in one direction of self-destruction. The materialists who are wedded to the pleasure principle will see no such dangers in the vicinity. Both people are wrong in their perceptions. The spiritualists’ perceptions are sided with the esoteric knowledge they have gained by reading books and listening to their gurus who always guided them.

The solution does not lie in blaming the technology nor in the values the spiritualists preach, mostly taken from the Vedas and scriptural texts as defence mechanism. The author of this discourse, however, is not questioning the credibility and authenticity of such values.  He is questioning about parroting blindly such values without facing the actual ground realities. Seeking instant solutions by following such values and ideals will create hiatus between the situation, the created values, and us resulting in conflict. The problem is with their asserting that a solution lies in following and upholding Vedic values. To say that these values are ideal for society to create harmony and peace among people is wrong.

How to Create a Meaningful Life?

Keep these values and ideals aside for a while and consider the following discussion. It is important to recognize that we can’t stop human progress and the development of technology. Change is inevitable and we can hardly stop it. There is an inherent will in us to know, invent, and develop. Without it, we would not have witnessed the enormous development in science and technology, the benefits of it the human world is now reaping. Digital technology has united the world and made it into a global village. It has brought the entire world to everyone’s doorsteps. It has yielded innumerable benefits which provided a comfortable and well-informed living. Without it, our life will be miserable.

We need to face this change. Fighting against the inherent human will and tendencies to know, invent, and develop as some conservative spiritualists and religious forces have been trying does not work. First, accept this change. It is a reality. It is not a fantasy or a virtual reality. The so-called spiritualists have invented all these fanciful words for their own convenience and for the sake of their own survival. In this world, each group of people is teaching and preaching their own philosophy, not born out of their own experiences, but parroting that which has already been codified and documented in the scriptural texts. To say the digital world is only digital, not real, is totally absurd. This specious argument is much more dangerous than talking about values and ideals. The awareness of this helps us deal with the digital society as it is. Without facing the reality, talking about values and ideals is like putting the cart before the bullock.

As we first accept the reality that is right before us, we will notice the benefits and the ill effects. This act of seeing both will bring a slow transformation into us. This transformation happens within us with no volition and outside forces.  Values follow automatically, but these values are not from outside. Anything that comes from outside, we strongly resist. They will not stay with us long. We may follow such values because we do not know what actually they are. But values that spring within will stay longer with us because they happen naturally, and certainly, they are in consonance and not in conflict with the values codified in the Vedas and the other scriptural texts.

This act of seeing is called awareness. Awareness of what the machine is doing, what we are looking for, true happiness or falsified pleasures, our uncontrolled desires, our feelings, and our emotions. This awareness is a big presence. We can say that it belongs to the spiritual realm, though it is simply awareness without naming it. It cannot be simulated or inherited but has to be cultivated. It is this awareness that is unique in a human, which distinguishes us from the other creatures. Because of this awareness, we can check every malfunctioning of our body and mind, everything that happens in our being. Whereas in technology, every happening is a process without having awareness, however, is endowed with Artificial Intelligence. So, to be human, we need to cultivate this awareness, this big presence in us.

Yoga and Digital Society

How does Yoga help us face the fast-changing world? We have already noticed the ill effects of the digital society, particularly the ill effects that manifest in physical diseases such as stress, strain, depression, hypertension, backpain, spondylitis, arthritis, and rheumatism. What we require here is wellness of our body and mind to get along with the digital changes that affect our lifestyles. The fact that body is with us when we are alone cannot be denied.  Unless this body is made fit and viable, nothing can be done in the world.  Therefore, our next priority is to make our body a fit vehicle to survive and face any number of challenges. First, we must make the body fit to withstand the pressure of the work, technology, and the mindboggling changes.

In Yoga, we strive to achieve a uniform state of body and mind regardless of any challenges or hurdles that engulf us. Simple asanas such as vajrasana, sastanganamaskarasana, balasana, and parvathasana in sitting forming one cycle; and saptavajrasana, dandasana, garudasana, adhomukha svanasana, and urdhva mukha svanasana forming the second cycle can be repeated three times. Similarly, in standing, asanas such as tadasana, ardhvakrasana, vrikshasana, padahastha asana, and trikonasana can be practiced repeating three times. We can combine these sitting and standing asanas with Surya Namasakaras in nine or twelve cycles. Simple Pranayama comprising anuloma and pratiloma, deep breathing, and kapalabhati can be followed at the end of performing the asanas.

An uninterrupted practice will yield maximum results, rectifying abnormal tensions, stress, and many diseases such as obesity, headache, diabetes, hypertension, osteoporosis and heart ailments caused by digital society. Yoga is an ancient way of life. Though the sages of India gave it, it became universal as it has viability and adaptability in any geographical condition. Through Yoga, we can develop awareness (the big presence) and keep the body and mind healthy and energetic, maintaining beauty, peace and balance in the digital world.


In the preceding paragraphs, I have discussed what a digital world or society is, and its positive and negative implications. In addition, I have shown through this discussion that as technologies are becoming more commonplace in our lives, the lines between the physical world and the digital world are blurred, and differentiating between the two is becoming more difficult. It becomes hard to distinguish between what is human and digital.  We have also noticed that we are as much ‘united’ as ‘divided’ in the digital society and that we need to balance the two to lead a harmonious life. Complete awareness of our body and mind teaches us to face the challenges and problems of digital society. Yoga helps us realize and develop this awareness. Half an hour of the everyday practice of Yoga does not come in conflict with our everyday duties. Instead, it elevates our minds and increases our consciousness. It will lead us to a peaceful life free from stress and strain, even amid our many commitments and responsibilities. However, it is increasingly crucial for digital citizens to be self-aware and take responsibility for their own actions in order to stay safe online.


Works Cited:

Colier, Nancy (2016). The Power of Off. Colorado: Sounds True.

Greengard, Samuel. “Living in a Digital World.” Communications of the ACM. 54/10, October  


Hunter, Alan. “New Era, New Dimensions”. Prabuddha Bharata, May 2021.

https://medium.com/digital-society/programmatic-advertising-131556a79174. Accessed on 

                April 27, 2022.

Malhotra, Rajiv (2021). Artificial Intelligence and Future of Power. New Delhi: Rupa 


Rosak, Theodore (1995). The Meaning of a Counter Culture. Oakland: University of 


The Routledge Companion to Digital Consumption (2013). Eds. Russell W. Belk and Rosa                  

                 Llamas. UK: Routledge.

Westacott, Emrys (2016). The Wisdom Frugality. Princeton University Press, Princeton.



  • Dr. K.V. Raghupathi is an ardent Yoga Sadhaka in Patanjali’s tradition, having over four decades of sadhana. He has been writing and transmitting his experiences born out of his uninterrupted sadhana in books and articles. He has so far published five books on Yoga that include, Yoga for Peace (2006/2019), Yoga and Zen (2007), My Tryst with Yoga and Other Essays (2018), Hastha Yoga: Theory and Practice (2018), and Dispersing Clouds: Discourses on Yoga (2022) and many articles both online and print journals. An outspoken speaker, he holds radical views on life and spirituality. In addition, he is a creative writer, having twelve books in poetry, two novels, two short story collections, and eight critical/edited books to his credit.
Trauma and Yoga Dr. K. V. Raghupathi

TRAUMA AND YOGA: Article by Dr. K. V. Raghupathi


We all undergo trauma in one form or the other in our life. No human can ever say that he/she has never undergone trauma in life. This is as bad as saying I have never fallen ill. Let us first understand what trauma is. Our world is characterized by the schisms of social numbness and mental breakdown. Trauma derives its meaning from Greek, which means wound/physical injury. Trauma is not that which encompasses death directly, but that which forces the subjects to somehow confront death-like situations.

Our life witnesses shocking events like murder, rapes, assaults, humiliations, tortures, robberies, etc., which are the result of deliberate attempts. With these events, we become more aware of our vulnerability. Our view on life changes, our values and priorities change, the values of family and interpersonal relationships change, perception of the entire human society.

Trauma can be referred to as an overwhelming experience and calamity that brings out a rupture so violently that dissociates a person or community at both social and personal levels. It disrupts a sense of continuity in our lives and dissipates our concepts and ideas which are fundamental to our very existence. It breaks apart the entire conceptual defence and support systems which help us manage and transform a myriad of random experiences into what we perceive as reality.


Trauma as defined by J. Laplanche and J.B Pontalis refers to an event in the subject’s life defined by its intensity by the subject’s incapacity to respond adequately to it and by the upheaval and long-lasting effects that it brings about in the psychical organization (465). The Oxford English Dictionary defines the term trauma as originating from a medical term used to refer to a wound or an external bodily injury, psychic injury, especially one caused by emotional shock, the memory of which is repressed and remains unhealed or the state of condition so caused. Freud termed it as a “breach in the protective shield” (292).

Sigmund Freud has introduced the concept of trauma to Psychology. He elaborated on the concept of trauma (injury, wound) to the phenomena of mind. According to him, trauma is defined as “a powerful event in a person’s life to which the individual is unable to respond appropriately and which has a powerful sudden and enduring effect on him. Trauma is characterized by a flood of extremely strong stimuli that exceeds the individual’s tolerance threshold, his ability to control his feeling of agitation and to process it.” (Saari 14) The concept when adapted to psychoanalysis carried three features central to it that include the idea of violence, the idea of an injury, the whole organism.

According to Freud, psychological trauma is an experience, where, in a short span of time, the mind is forced to receive a great number of stimuli that are too powerful to be processed by the brain in the usual way, resulting in either the system incorporating it as a foreign body or not even complete but in traces. The Brain usually allows penetration of those stimuli that the mind is capable of tolerating. If the threshold is exceeded, it results in trauma. Then the function of the protective system is to reach a state of equilibrium by every possible means by reducing the state of stimulation and thus achieve the state favoured by the pleasure principle.

Freud, in his essays like “Thoughts for the Times on War and Death” (1915), “On Transience” (1915), “Mourning and Melancholia” (1917), “The Uncanny”(1919), and “Beyond the Pleasure Principle” (1920) had expressed his views on the different psychic states and trauma which ceaselessly return to the precise traumatic moment through flashbacks, nightmares, dreams, etc. For Freud, trauma is characterized by the failure of memory and a victim’s compulsion to repeat the traumatic event.

Several psychologists after Freud like Anne Whitehead, Cathy Caruth, Carl Jung, Herman, Ann Kaplan, Kai Erikson, Susan Najita and others have elaborately developed and expounded various theories on trauma. All these theories have thrown light on the victim’s consequences and experiences, besides widened the scope and study of trauma.


Today’s academic, artistic, journalistic, psychiatric, psychoanalytic, and cultural discourses are increasingly engaged in the analysis of traumata; this has, in turn, privileged trauma as a route through which one can examine cultural issues of experience, memory, the body and representation, especially in the fields of history, literature, and culture studies.

We undoubtedly live in an age of trauma and testimony. The bombarding news of war and genocide, mass exodus, pride killing, rape, and domestic violence in our own country and also in other parts of the world and the abiding presence of the terrorist threats within the borders of our own country have become a part of people’s daily lives as they find themselves just a few sound bites away from the sites of violence when they watch the evening news. This has in turn plunged the threshold of the people’s general sense of safety and security. It is no longer possible to envision a world immune from the pain of others and the immediacy from the danger that can haunt one’s life without a warning.

Traumatization involves very painful experiences which are so difficult to cope with, which often result in psychological dysfunction, for those who are involved; the effects of which are felt psychically, emotionally, spiritually and cognitively. Today, the world is witnessing rampant war and the refugee crisis, which leads to uprooting wherein people are forced to leave everything familiar including one’s language, culture, and position in society, job, relatives, and social network and start a new life in a completely different environment.


The word samskara comes from the Sanskrit sam (complete or joined together) and kara (action, cause, or doing). Samskaras (Sanskrit: संस्कार) are mental impressions, recollections, or psychological imprints. Samskaras are individual impressions, ideas, or actions; taken together, our samskaras make up our conditioning. Samskaras are a basis for the development of karma theory. In Buddhism, the Sanskrit term samskara is used to describe ‘formations’. Vasana is the seed of desire that arises from past tendencies. Translated into action, it becomes karma which in turn forms fresh samskaras. Samsakaras, vasanas and karma are interlinked. One cannot be separated from the other. Samskara is the plant that grows when the seed of vasana sprouts into karma. The impression of anything in the mind or the present consciousness is formed from past perceptions. Knowledge thus derived from memory and the impressions remaining in the mind from the basis of samskaras. Thinking of, longing for, expectation, desire, and inclination are all part of these samskaras. Repeating samskaras reinforces them, creating a groove that is difficult to resist. According to yogic philosophy, we’re born with a karmic inheritance of mental and emotional patterns—known as samskaras—through which we cycle over and over again during our lives. Samskaras can be positive, as we see in any selfless service rendered in society, or can also be negative, as in the self-lacerating mental patterns that underlie low self-esteem and self-destructive relationships in the case of trauma. The negative samskaras are what hinder our positive evolution. The trauma victims suffer from these samskaras, the memory of strong impressions formed about the ghastly events and experiences. The breaking point here is samskaras. Once this happens, the victims are freed from the guilt and other negative emotions and tendencies. The samskaras thus formed in subconsciousness are so strong that the trauma victims undergo severe pain, psychological and spiritual, leading to mental disorders.


Victims of trauma often show various symptoms and reactions. The most common response to traumatic events is survival. Violent trauma triggers emotions of “fight or flight” which puts the body in a hyper-aroused state. When this happens, the person will either run away or fight to survive. If this is not possible, a person may freeze and will not be able to think, talk or move. Immediately following the trauma, which is single or multiple events, the survivor experiences many physical, cognitive, and emotional responses and symptoms which may remain active until worked through.

Physical reactions include headaches, stomach pain, disturbed sleep patterns, and are easily startled by noise or touch, have breathing difficulties, sweats shakes, and trembles. Cognitive reactions include preoccupation with trauma, confusion, decreased self-esteem, loss of purpose or meaning in life, difficulty in concentrating, fear of the future, and flashbacks. The effects manifest physically as migraines, nervous tics, clenched muscles in the neck, shoulders, and jaw, a sunken chest, or a heavy heart. They can exact an even heavier toll in the form of heart disease, diabetes, panic attacks, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder – neurodevelopmental disorder) in children, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, and a host of autoimmune disorders. Behavioural reactions include shock and disbelief, fear and anxiety, grief and denial, hyper-alertness, irritability, and anger outburst, feeling of helplessness, panic and feeling out of control and often attempts to avoid triggers of trauma. Difficulty in trusting, feeling betrayed, unable to relax, feeling guilty, hopeless, appetite changes, self-harming, and being suicidal along with detachment and numbing constitute emotional reactions.

A traumatic event breaks up and creates a fissure in the basic human relationship and attachments of family, friendship, love, and community, undermining the belief systems and the idea of self which gives meaning to life. Trauma not only affects oneself psychologically but also dismantles the attachment systems that link oneself to others and the community.

Victims lose faith in the natural or the divine, leaving them in a state of existential crisis. One acquires a sense of safety and trust during one’s childhood years at the hands of their first caretaker (father/mother). This sense of safety and trust is sustained throughout the life cycle. In a traumatic situation, people call for their first caretaker, usually, their mother, who is their source of comfort and protection. A sense of trust is lost when they fail to find a secure base. They feel abandoned, lonely, and cast out of the human system of safety and care, which results in a sense of disconnection even within the most intimate familial bonds. They feel utterly lost and almost deader than the living, which eventually tempts them to commit suicide.

In case of a traumatic event, a person loses his sense of self, and conflicts within him of childhood and adolescence re-emerges. The victim re-lives all his initial struggles. A positive sense of self is crucial in outliving one’s trauma. Feeling valued and respected cultivates self-esteem and a sense of autonomy resulting from one’s own separateness, which helps one regulate one’s own bodily function and points of view.

Developmental conflicts in oneself lead to the development of shame and doubt, guilt and inferiority. Traumatic events thwart a person’s initiative and overwhelm individual competence. Feelings of guilt, inferiority, helplessness, etc. Are severe when one is a witness to the suffering or death of others and are haunted by the images of the dying whom they could not help.

Social support systems in the form of a positive and supportive response from society and the dear ones may help reduce the impact of the event. This alone is not enough. However, in the context of rapid urbanization resulting in fast-changing lifestyles, expecting such social supportive response is a far-reaching reality. Whereas a negative response may aggravate the trauma and become vulnerable.


Western medicines will do more damage to the system than bring in vital changes in the victim’s body and mind. Yoga can make a big difference in trauma victims. Yoga touches on every level of victim, physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. It makes a powerful and effective means for trauma victims to calm their minds, experience emotions directly, and begin to feel a sense of strength and control. Trauma’s effects live not only in the body but also in the mind. Various body-based and mind-based therapies cannot undo the effects of what happened—the terror, rage, helplessness, and depression that manifest in the body. It’s not even erasing the event itself from the victim’s psyche that is important. Instead, it’s the samskaras (the residue imprints) that get rooted in sensory and hormonal systems that need to be addressed with sympathy, love, and understanding.
Asanas can reduce disorders in the victim’s body. Moving from one asana to another, slowly, deliberately and concentrated, bring in vast changes. The simplest of poses (standing or sitting) can produce profound results. Just feeling his feet on the ground for the very first time in Tadasana (standing palm tree position) and Vrikshasana (standing tree position) can give the victim a sense of balance, stability, and safety. Doing gently supported backbend and forward bend Asanas such as Parvatasana (Intertwining the fingers of both hands to form a finger lock in Padmasana or Vajrasana), Yoga Mudra (touching the floor with forehead in Vajrasana or Padmasana by pressing the bowels below the navel with twisted fists), Sastanga Namaskaraasana (lowering the body so that the body is parallel to the ground with the two feet, the two knees, the two palms, the chest and the chin touching the floor, the hip and abdomen are slightly raised up), Supta Vajrasana (bending the body back in Vajrasana with elbows touching the floor and the top of the head resting on the floor), Marjarya asana (inhaling and exhaling in cat position) will increase blood flow which is vital for rectifying imbalances. Building a strong, capable body goes a long way toward developing a strong, centred mind. Similarly, Asanas can induce similar chemical changes in the brain.

A round of simple Pranayama, deep breathing called Nadisodhana Pranayama (inhaling through the left nostril and releasing through the right nostril while closing the former and alternatively) might tone up feelings, reduce cortisol, a stress hormone that triggers depression, and increases oxytocin, the so-called “love hormone” and improve social interaction. Pranayama can have an energizing or calming effect on the nervous system and quiet the brain. Simple breathing can keep the victim in the body. The overwhelming emotions have to be tackled. The impact of Asanas and Pranayama of negative symptoms is much stronger than other forms of exercise such as calisthenics, walking, jogging, running, gymnastics, etc. These Asanas and Pranayama should be practiced with mindfulness. Then one can see the real impact. With all Yoga practices, the victim may be encouraged to stay with the sensation for as long as s/he chooses. Yoga can mitigate the horrific responses of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.

Mere intellectual insight may not work on the victims, it does not travel beyond the mind, and it seldom translates into change. Because the body houses emotional intelligence in the victims, it might not assimilate the insight. Yoga comprising asanas and pranayama acts through the medium of the body, taking vidya to even deeper levels. Through yoga, we integrate and experience physically and emotionally what we intellectually know to be true.

Meditation can also help trauma victims to bring their nervous systems back into balance. Mantra meditation and Yoga Nidra and yoga mudra provide two alternatives to following one’s thoughts in silence. Using a mantra (chanting Om) gives the mind a calm state and prepares the victim for the journey inward, something to return to as memories and sensations surface and dissolve. Yoga Nidra helps the victim stay present to what’s going on—feeling the energy of the body and exploring sensations without judgment or attachment. Shavasana, if done properly under the guidance of a master, gives total relaxation to the body as well as to the mind. Yoga provides a powerful ally on the journey home and allows the victim to create a loving and nurturing relationship with his/her body.

All patterns, even samskaras, represent order. When we leave an old pattern behind, we enter a liminal space—a bardo, to borrow a Tibetan term. As the space between an exhalation and the next inhalation, this place is ripe with unlimited possibilities for new choices. This in-between space can be unsettling. We often resist new patterns for fear of losing the identities we’ve so carefully constructed. And it’s true that when we change a long-held pattern, we undergo a rebirth of sorts. This rebirth hints at a new incarnation, a more evolved version of the self. Yet improving our samskara brings us closer to our true nature, which is the goal of yoga. Like alchemists in our own transformation, we constantly refine and direct our samskara into healthier designs.

Works Cited:
Freud, Sigmond. “Beyond the Pleasure Principle”. Complete Psychological Works of
Sigmund Freud. Trans. James Strachey. Vols. 1-24. London: W. W. Norton &
Company, 1976.
Laplanche, J. J, Pontalis, B. The Language of Psycho-Ananlysis. Trans. Donald Nicholson
Smith. New York: W. W. Norton, 1973.
Saari, S. A Bolt from the Blue: Coping with Disasters and Acute Traumas. A.Silver, Trans. London, England: Jessica Kingsley Pulishers, 2005.

About the author

Poet, short story writer, novelist, critic, book reviewer, an independent scholar, and a yoga sadhaka, KVRaghupathi has published thirty books numerous articles and a recepient of several awards for his creativity. A former academic, now settled in Tirupati devoting his full time to writings and yoga sadhana. He can be reached at drkvraghupathi9@gmail.com.