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Obstacles to Practice

We all find excuses for not practicing. We’re too tired, we’ll do it later, or we

simply don’t have time. If you’re looking for more excuses, the Yoga Sutras of

Patanjali are way ahead of you. According to the ancient text, written some

1,800 years ago, the main obstacles to practice are as follows:

  • ~Illness

  • ~Misperceptions

  • ~Mental and physical pain

  • ~Unsteadiness of the body

  • ~Doubt

  • ~Cravings

  • ~Dullness

  • ~Laziness

  • ~Failure

  • ~Sadness and frustration

  • ~Irregular breath

In today’s world, these obstacles can translate to pets, children, roommates,

monkey mind, depression, anxiety, and chores or errands. To break

free from the land of excuse, the Sutras recommend this universal remedy:

"Develop a one-pointed mind. When the mind is focused on the positive outcome

of practice, it’s less likely to get entangled in the obstacles."

It’s often suggested that these obstacles all emerge from the first one, illness or"dis-ease" (vyadhi) which sees avidya (spiritual ignorance) as the root cause of the other afflictions. (Sutras 2.3 through 2.5). In some ways, avidya, is like the "dis-ease"of vyadhi. When we are uneasy, upset, or ill, the subsequent afflictions can easily manifest and further distract and disturb our consciousness and sense of well-being.

When presented with these obstacles instead of running from them, try to embrace them, befriend them, and feel genuine compassion toward the one who is experiencing them. This gives permission for feelings of both joy and sorrow to flow freely through you when they feelings arrive. They may be obstacles, but they don’t need to be distractions. In fact, they can be an emotional leader by creating the needed clarity to help you find what’s in your way. When fully embraced, the obstacle then becomes the remover of the obstacle!

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