Obstacles in Yoga Practice – they are here to make us committed
Yoga practice is a journey through our mind and soul towards ourselves. That’s the journey towards the truth and spiritual realization. This isn’t a straight highway with signs showing you where the self-realization is. It’s more of a bumpy, rough road with obstacles that need to be surpassed.
Why are the obstacles here? They are not present to make us give up on our efforts, but to make us more persistent and committed to the practice. Patanjali distinguished nine obstacles on the journey of a yogi, calling them antaraya. There isn’t a practitioner who hasn’t faced these obstacles. In order to surpass them, we should know their nature, as well as our own qualities.
Nine obstacles in yoga practice
● Vyadhi (sickness) is the first obstacle on the path. When the physical balance is disturbed, the practitioner cannot devote himself to yoga with his full potential. However, as with everything else, we shouldn’t neglect that every obstacle is here to teach us something. Besides being an interference, illness also teaches us to respect life. When we pass through vyadhi, we gain knowledge, wisdom and consciousness.
● Styana means mental stagnation, lethargy and dullness. In this state, the mind cannot understand and make difference between everything that’s happening around us and within us. Even if you are physically well and don’t have troubles staying in an asana, styana will make it impossible for you to meditate.
● Samsaya, the third obstacle, means doubt. This is one of the most subtle interferences, which usually comes when one expects it the least. Many people start practicing yoga with great enthusiasm, but start having doubts soon after. They may think that yoga is a waste of time (this usually happens for those who come to lose weight), or start doubting the teacher and the entire philosophy of yoga. The worst part is when we start doubting ourselves. In these moments, the practitioner should meditate, think well about what’s stopping him to believe and talk to the teacher.
● Pramada is lack of keen interest and foresight. Most practitioners are happy to come to every class when they start practicing, but you will see them less and less as the course advances, until they stop coming. It is very important to advance slowly into the practice. If you bite off more than you can chew, the interest will soon go away.
● Alasya means mental and physical fatigue. When you start forcing yourself to do yoga, you should recognize this obstacle. Almost all practitioners experience this interference and we should learn to identify it, because it can easily lead us to discontinuation of the journey.
● Avirati is the sixth obstacle, which means desire to enjoy in sensuality. When passion and attachment becomes an obstacle, we think that the subject of our interest is the only thing that matters and we forget about everything else. Our mind works in interesting ways, so we can always find “excuses” for ourselves.
● Bhrantidarshana means false perceptions and self-deception. This is a very difficult interference to recognize. When we think that we’ve reached a high level in yoga practice and we no longer need a teacher to guide us because “now we know everything”, we should pay a lot of attention to this obstacle and the manifestation of our ego.
● Alabdhabhumikatva means inability to advance in the practice and reach a higher level. Even when we devote ourselves to regular practice, sometimes we can’t achieve progress due to karmic predispositions.
● Anavastitava is the ninth obstacle, which means inability to retain the qualities we reached. For example, we can achieve concentration and then the mind will start “walking around” again. This interference may disappoint us and make us insecure.
The obstacles are here to make us committed
We have to understand that the interference’s are part of the journey. They are here to make us realize something, to test us whether or not we are ready to go further. Although they may seem insurmountable at times, we have to face them and stay committed to our practice. When we manage to surpass them, we will awaken new qualities that will guide us further on the way… until new obstacles come to test us again. When we know how to recognize them, we will know how to face them and outpace them.