Distractions and Obstacles that Interfere with Yoga Practice
The distractions and obstacles which hinder the aspirant’s y6oga practice:
- Vyadhi– sickness which disturbs the physical equilibrium
- Styana– languor or lack of mental disposition for work
- Samsaya– doubt or indecision
- Pramada– indifference or insensibility
- Alasya– laziness
- Avirati– sensuality, the rousing of desire when sensory objects possess the mind
- Bhranti Darsana– false or invalid knowledge, or illusion
- Alabdha Bhumikatva– failure to attain continuity of thought or concentration so that reality cannot be seen
- Anavasthitattva– instability in holding on to concentration which has been attained after long practice.
There are, however, four more distractions:
(1) dukha– pain or misery
(2) daurmansya– despair
(3) ailgamejayatva– unsteadiness of the body
(4) svasa-prasvasa– unsteady respiration
To win a battle, a general surveys the terrain and the enemy and plans counter-measures. In a similar way the Yogi plans the conquest of the Self.
Vyadhi: It will be noticed that the very first obstacle is ill-health or sickness. To the yogi his body is the prime instrument of attainment. If his vehicle breaks down, the traveller cannot go far. If the body is broken by ill-health, the aspirant can achieve little. Physical health is important for mental development, as normally the mind functions through the nervous system. When the body is sick or the nervous system is affected, the mind becomes restless or dull and inert and concentration or meditation become impossible.
Styana: A person suffering from languor has no goal, no path to follow and no enthusiasm. His mind and intellect become dull due to inactivity and their faculties rust. Constant flow keeps a mountain stream pure, but water in a ditch stagnates and nothing good can flourish in it. A listless person is like a living corpse for he can concentrate on nothing.
Samsaya: The unwise, the faithless and the doubter destroy themselves. How can they enjoy this world or the next or have any happiness? The seeker should have faith in himself and his master. He should have faith that God is ever by his side and that no evil can touch him. As faith springs up in the heart it dries out lust, ill-will, mental sloth, spiritual pride and doubt, and the heart free from these hindrances becomes serene and untroubled.
Pramada: A person suffering from pramada is full of self-importance, lacks any humility and believes that he alone is wise. No doubt he knows what is right or wrong, but he persists in his indifference to the right and chooses what is pleasant. To gratify his selfish passions and dreams of personal glory, he will deliberately and without scruple sacrifice everyone wh stands in his way. Such a person is blind to God’s glory and deaf to His words.
Alasya: To remove the obstacle of laziness, unflagging enthusiasm (virya) is needed. The attitude of the aspirant is like that of a lover ever yearning to meet the beloved but never giving way to despair. Hope should be his shield and courage his sword. He should be free from hate and sorrow. With faith and enthusiasm he should overcome the inertia of the body and the mind.
Avirati: This is the tremendous craving for sensory objects after they with the aid of the senses which are completely under his control. By the practice of pratyahara he wins freedom from attachment and emancipation from desire and becomes content and tranquil.
Bhranti Darsana: A person afflicted by false knowledge suffers from delusion and believes that he alone has seen the true Light. He has a powerful intellect but lacks humility and makes a show of wisdom. By remaining in the company of great souls and through their guidance he sets his foot firmly on the right path and overcomes his weakness.
Alabdha Bhumikatva: As a mountain climber falls to-reach the summit for lack of stamina, so also a person who cannot overcome the inability to concentrate is unable to seek reality. He might have had glimpses of reality but he cannot see dearly. He is like a musician who has heard divine music in a dream, but who is unable to recall it in his waking moments and cannot repeat the dream.
Anavasthitattva: A person affected with anavasthitattva has by hard work come within sight of reality. Happy and proud of his achievements he becomes slack in his practice (sadhana). He has purity and great power of concentration and has come to the final cross-roads of his quest. Even at this last stage continuous endeavour is essential and he has to pursue the path with infinite patience and determined perseverance and must never show slackness which hampers progress on the path of God realization. He must wait until divine grace descends upon him.
It has been said in the Kathopanishad: ‘The Self is not to be realised by study and instruction, nor by subtlety of intellect, nor by much learning, but only by him who longs for Him, by the one whom He chooses. Verily to such a one the Self reveals His true being.’
To overcome the obstacles and to win unalloyed happiness, Patanjali offered several remedies. The best of these is the fourfold remedy of Maitri (friendliness), Karuna (compassion), Mudita (delight) and Upeksa (disregard).
Maitri is not merely friendliness, but also a feeling of oneness with the object of friendliness (atmiyata). A mother feels intense happiness at the success of her children because of atmiyata, a feeling of oneness. Patanjali recommends maitri for sukha (happiness or virtue). The yogi cultivates maitri and atmiyata for the good and turns enemies into friends, bearing malice towards none.
Karuna is not merely showing pity or compassion and shedding tears of despair at the misery (duhkha) of others. It is compassion coupled with devoted action to relieve the misery of the afflicted. The yogi uses all his resources- physical, economic, mental or moral to alleviate the pain and suffering of others. He shares his strength with the weak until they become strong. He shares his courage with those that are timid until they become brave by his example. He denies the maxim of the ‘survival of the fittest’, but makes the weak strong enough to survive. He becomes a shelter to one and all.
Mudita is a feeling of delight at the good work (punya) done by another, even though he may be a rival. Through mudita, the yogi saves himself from much heart-burning by not showing anger, hatred or jealousy for another who has reached the desired goal which he himself has failed to achieve.
Upeksa is not merely a feeling of disdain or contempt for the person who has fallen into vice (apunya) or one of indifference or superiority towards him. It is a searching self-examination to find out how one would have behaved when faced with the same temptations. It is also an examination to see how far one is responsible for the state into which the unfortunate one has fallen and the attempt thereafter to put him on the right path. The yogi understands the faults of others by seeing and studying them first in himself. This self-study teaches him to be charitable to all.
The deeper significance of the fourfold remedy of maitri, karuna, mudita and upeksa cannot be felt by an unquiet mind. My experience has led me to conclude that for an ordinary man or woman in any community of the world, the way to achieve a quiet mind is to work with determination on two of the eight stages of Yoga mentioned by Patanjali, namely, asana and pranayama.
The mind (manas) and the breath (prana) are intimately connected and the activity or the cessation of activity of one affects the other. Hence, Patanjali recommended pranayama (rhythmic breath control) for achieving mental equipoise and inner peace.
Micah Lyn is a Holistic Healthcare Practitioner HHP, Intuitive Healer and E-RYT 500 Certified Yoga Teacher registered with Yoga Alliance and KRI. She offers a variety of private yoga classes in Sedona AZ, yoga therapy and intuitive healing services at Pachamama Yoga ✨ Sedona Healing Center. Visit the YTT Programs & Workshops page to see upcoming Online & Hands-on Intensive Yoga Teacher Training, Virtual Online Yoga Workshops & Transformational Yoga Retreats featured worldwide.
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