Nine Obstacles on the Path of Yoga

Obstacles to yogaThe Yoga Sutras of Patanjali list nine obstacles on the path of yoga. What are these obstacles and how can we avoid them?

The 9 Obstacles on the path of yoga

Life tends to present us with challenges and setbacks: we might get ill just when we have a job interview lined up; we have started a daily yoga practice but come day six or seven we are starting to lapse and skip our practice; our boss behaves unreasonably making us doubt both his/her character and our abilities. In one of recent workshops, we looked at the nine obstacles described in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – one of the most famous texts of yoga written before 400BC.

Yoga Sutra 1.30 list the following obstacles:

  1. Vyadhi – Illness
  2. Styana – Lethargy
  3. Samsaya – Doubt
  4. Pramada – Haste
  5. Alasya – Resignation
  6. Avirati – Distraction
  7. Bhrantidarsana – Ignorance and arrogance
  8. Alabdhabhumikatva – Lack of perseverance
  9. Anavasthitatvani – Loss of confidence
Look for the benefits

Don’t we all recognise these? Let’s take anavasthitatvani, lack of perseverance. Only last week I received several emails and newsletters pointing out the importance of perseverance for succeeding in business and life in general. Just when I was flagging with my plan to publish amonthly blog I was nudged by these timely reminders to pick up the habit again.

To help us overcome obstacles we might find motivation by identifying the benefits in doing so. In the case of perseverance, there are several advantages: we can develop skills, get results, build trust, demonstrate reliability, and create a positive image. If these results matter to us, then perseverance will pay off.

Obstacles are there for a reason

Although it is tempting to do everything to avoid obstacles like lack of perseverance, there might be something positive in facing them. When life presents us with challenges, we are given the opportunity to reflect. Am I on the right path? Am I doing the right thing? Is it worth it? I can I overcome this obstacle? Can I do it on my own or do I need to reach out and get help? What can I learn in the process?

Creating time and space in our minds to deal with these questions can be the first and most important first step forward. Therefore it might a better use of valuable energy to learn from obstacles rather than wasting limited energy in a counter-productive attempt to avoid them.

”Whenever there is confusion in our minds we must try to create space.”
T.K.V Desikachar