In yoga the term for a repetitive action or thought is Samskara. Samskaras are often referred to as grooves or mental tracks. They are formed through repetitive thoughts and actions. The more the same thoughts or actions are repeated the deeper the groove becomes. The deeper the groove, the more likely these thoughts or actions are to be revisited and repeated, then eventually they create habits. Not all habits are positive.
One of the keys to reducing negative habits or samskaras is to replace them with more positive ones, so eventually the positive thoughts and actions create new habits whilst the negative samskaras are overridden or dissipate.
The word samskara translates as follows sam = well planned or well thought out, and kara = action under-taken.
Samskaras are also memory stores that hold all past experiences in perfect detail. When memories are recalled, samskaras come back to the level of the conscious mind in waves of recollection. Each time a samskara is recalled and repeated, the groove gets deeper and the impression gets stronger.
Samskaras can potentially influence a person’s future. They contain hidden expectations and unconscious ideas that are waiting to come to fruition, and in some cases, these can be strong enough to alter thought processes. If we store negative opinions and expectations of ourselves then the outcome could be negative and there maybe times when we find ourselves repeating negative behaviours.
Through regular yoga practices it is possible to begin to tap into different samskaras and in doing so some negative thoughts or behaviours are understood and these imprints slowly dissipate and are replaced with new more positive ones.
Sankalpas help to create new positive samskaras that will override the negative ones. A sankalpa is an intention created for our greater good. San= an idea that is formed in the heart and kalpa = committed intention.
The sankalpa is usually practiced during yoga nidra, a state of very deep relaxation. It is believed that when the mind is relaxed, the sankalpa can be planted in the subconscious. By focussing and reciting the sankalpa internally new more positive samskaras can be formed and grow to override and replace some of negative ones.
The work is always ongoing as we are constantly creating different samskaras.