The perspective of Indian Yogis

Types of Memory in Yoga

Eight Layers of Memory

Mindfully Speaking


When we talk about memory, we generally refer to what we remember. In actuality, this is not the case. Memory has layers to it. According to the yogic system, memory is an accumulation of responses and eight types of memory exist in this creation. These are,

  1. Elemental Memory
  2. Atomic Memory
  3. Evolutionary Memory
  4. Genetic Memory
  5. Karmic Memory
  6. Unconscious Memory
  7. Subconscious Memory
  8. Conscious Memory

These eight types of memory are classified into two groups, Inanimate Memory and Animate Memory.

In Inanimate Memory, we have Elemental Memory and Atomic Memory.

According to the yogic system, the first step in creation (from nothing to something) is the formation of five elements, namely, earth, water, air, fire and ether. Each name represents a distinctive attribute and not the substance itself. For example, earth represents solid and water represents liquid. These elements have different characteristics and are the basis for all creation.

Elemental Memory is the record of how these five elements interact with each other. For example, ether (which represents the vast empty space in the cosmos) contains earth (solid) is the way in which these elements interact with each other.

The next step in creation is the formation of material (eg. gases, liquids, etc.). Atomic Memory is the record of how this material is made and how it behaves. For example, how do the five elements make subatomic particles, atoms, and then molecules are contained in this memory.

Next comes the Animate Memory. In this, the first layer of memory is Evolutionary Memory. Evolutionary Memory is the record of how the evolution of life has taken place. To give the context, this memory plays a key role in making sure that human beings are born with two legs, two arms, two eyes, two hands, etc.

Upon the layer of Evolutionary Memory lies the layer of Genetic Memory. Genetic Memory is the record of all the genetic material passed on to the next generation by ancestors. To give the context, this memory plays a key role in making you a unique human being among all other human beings. It will do so by deciding your skin colour, the shape of your facial features, etc. through which you can be uniquely identified.

The next layer of memory is Karmic Memory. Karmic Memory is made by the accumulation of impressions. This accumulation is not limited to the current life but also contains impressions from all previous lives and the process of evolution. The way in which this memory plays its part is beyond our normal understanding.

The last layer of memory is the accumulation of impressions by the mind or mental body. There is a large portion of this memory that a person is completely unaware of, we call it Unconscious Memory. Then there is a portion of it that you can recollect and articulate. We call it Conscious Memory. Last is a portion of memory that lies just beneath the Conscious Memory, the Subconscious Memory.

For example, you may never recollect what you thought about your English teacher in the fourth grade. Similarly, you cannot recollect a lot of mental impressions you made in the past. These impressions do not go away. They are all stored in the unconscious memory.

Now, you may be able to recollect some of the boys/girls you liked in your school days. If not all of them, you will at least recollect some names. These impressions are a part of the subconscious memory as you cannot remember them fully but have some awareness about them.

But there are some impressions that you can easily recollect and articulate with precision even today. It may be how you felt after when your nation won the football world cup, the opinion you had for your calculus teacher in the university, etc. These impressions find their place in the conscious memory.

But whether the impressions are in unconscious, subconscious or conscious memory, it does not matter when it comes to shaping up your life to the point where it is now.

These are the eight kinds of memory according to the yogic system.

In yogic language,

These are the layers of memory that make you the life you are right now.