Otherwise, at other times, [the seer] is absorbed in the changing states / Vrtti-sarupyam itaratra
The Yoga Sutras - Chapter 1, Sutra #4
Let us continue our study of the Yoga Sutras.
In Sutra #4 Patanjali describes more deeply the situation when the seer does not abide in its own nature. When the soul as pure consciousness is not devoid of content, it is absorbed in the vrttis or changing states of mind.
The mind’s purpose is to serve its master - the soul - by presenting the objects of experience in the form of mind fluctuations: ideas, thoughts, beliefs, emotions. When these ever-changing states of mind are presented to the soul, the soul becomes conscious of them, but is mistakenly identified with them by the citta (our intellect, ego, and mind), and thereby appears affected by them. What is wrong, as we have learned from the previous Yoga sutras, the soul is pure consciousness and an autonomous entity separable from the mind and thoughts and not changed by them. Thus, this misidentification (avidya) of the soul with changing states of mind is the cause of the soul’s apparent bondage in the physical world of matter.
There is a great analogy of someone looking into a colored mirror, identifying with the colored reflection, and thinking he or she is colored. Likewise, when a person is not aware of the distinction between conscious or soul and mind, one wrongly attributes the changing states of the mind to the self. This can cause anxiety and frustration in a person who incorrectly identifies his true self, his pure soul, with what he is not. All these emotions and feelings that we experience as pain, happiness, delusion, stress, constant changes in thoughts are not our true us, our souls or pure consciousness are our true ones.
The yoga practice that goes far beyond just physical exercise helps practitioners connect with their true selves and pure consciousness by being aware of and calming changing states of mind. Yoga is about liberation from the external material world.