Obstacles to the yogin

Patandzhali mentions in “The Yoga-Sutras” (1.30) about at least nine obstacles (antarayah) which can arise in the course of studying or practicing yoga: illness, languor, doubt, carelessness, laziness, distraction, false views, lack of perseverance during the stages of yoga, and instability. These obstacles distract the consciousness of the yoga practitioner and slow down, or even destroy the process of yoga.

All of the above can be understood as bringing restriction upon oneself independently. Patandzhali determines the nine obstacles as citta-vikshepa or consciousness distraction. They disperse the mental concentration of the yogi and hampers efforts to turn the mind to yoga practice.

1. Vyadhi (Illness): Vyadhi is translated as disorder, illness, disease, or sickness. This is the loss of natural balance and body health. This ill health happens through practitioner fault. The balance of our body is a balance of the tissues of which it consists. Everything we eat and drink nourishes these tissues. The root of illness occurrs because of poor diet and daily routine.

2.Styana (Languor): This means mental stagnation as reluctance and inability to act. Even if one has the mental ambition to practice, laziness will result in an inability to act. This is a sort of mental and physical inertia, through which action is delayed.

3. Samshaya (Doubt): Since ancient times, doubt has been thought to be one the most important obstacles to spiritual realization. Doubt comes to a person who has lack of belief. Its influence devastates and leads to self-destruction.

4. Pramada (Carelessness): The yoga path depends on completeness of thought. Inattention or carelessness delay path progression. Also, carelessness can be treated as lack of tenacity and persistence.

5. Alasya (Laziness): As styana is mental languor, alasya is laziness caused by physical weight (e. g. overeating). It is a lack of effort due to heaviness of the body and thoughts, which arises from prevalence of phlegm and tamas, the natural components of inertness.

6. Averati (Distraction): Also, translated as worldliness or overindulging of thought through attachment to objects. “While contemplating the objects of the senses, a person develops an attachment for them, and from such attachment lust develops, and from lust anger arises. From anger, delusion arises, and from delusion bewilderment of memory. When memory is bewildered, intelligence is lost, and when intelligence is lost, one falls down again into the material pool.” Bhagavad-gita (2.62-63). “…moving amongst objects with the senses under restraint, and free from attraction and repulsion…” Bhagavad-gita (2.64).

7. Bhranti-darsana (False view): False view connotes premature sense of confidence. If a practitioner considers his own achievement on a certain section of a path to be enough, his self-enrichment is broken off automatically.

8. Alabdha-bhumikatva (Lack of perseverance during the stages): Yoga practice is based only on constant upward growth. It shouldn’t have any break or lack of progress.

9. Anavasthitatva (Instability): Yoga stages are difficult to achieve; however, it is harder to stay there constantly. As one’s level increases, more energy and concentration are required to improve and provide a footing on the yoga stage.

Patandzhali includes in “The Yoga-Sutras” (1.31) four additional obstacles as well, calling these a product of the nine previous obstacles: pain, depression, trembling of the body, and breath agitation.

1.Dukha (Pain): The aim of yoga is to help the practitioner rise above the pain. However, when becoming a victim of any obstacle, not only is suffering not alleviated, it is increased. It makes physical and mental plan more pronounced. Pain and suffering is expressed in three ways: caused by oneself, caused by other people, and caused by karma and natural forces.

2. Daurmanasya Depression): Facing obstacles and failures, it is difficult for a practitioner to relate well to the situation. Discouragement comes often, leading to the emotional disorder.

3. Angam-ejayatva (Trembling of the body): Trembling is an external display of mental excitement.

4. Svasa-prasvasa (Breath agitation): This is an irregular intermittence of breath, occurring due to mental over excitation.

Yoga brings to light three main obstacles in daily life, which primarily cause restriction of human consciousness. They are often called the three poisons or three floggings:

1. Moha: Ignorance

2. Krodha: Anger

3. Lobha: Greed

From this follow the four passions:

1. Mana: Pride

2. Maya: Deceitfulness

3. Raga: Desire, attachment

4. Krodha: Irritation

All of the above sins follow spiritual ignorance, the main root of the trouble. Through ignorance we perceive ourselves as independent people, consider ourselves disjointed from the rest, and reach out to get more and more from the world, from which we separate ourselves synthetically.

These actions or attempts are determined as «greed». Originally greed was often regarded as the main obstacle. The human consciousness is aimed towards achievement of objects through feelings. Therefore, first of all, yoga appeals to take control of thoughts and feelings.

Greed is a phenomenon of the undisciplined soul, staying under a spell conditional associations and not taking control over own incarnation. Freedom from greed occurs due to practice of aparigrahi (non-possessiveness), and based on understanding our natural completeness and necessity of nothing for own perfection.

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