The Nine Obstacles to Yoga

Dharma - Your Purpose in Life

Yoga is concerned with just one thing. It is the unearthing of your inner possibility buried deep within the soul. This inner potential in very human soul has a unique vocation known as your Dharma. The journey towards the realization of your dharma determines what type of creator you will turn out to be, and what you will create.

A meaningful life can only stem out of a purpose driven career, and a purpose driven career can only be discerned when one realizes what their Dharma is.

Treading the path of Yoga, sooner or later, you WILL to be confronted with tremendous obstacles to realizing what your vocation, or dharma is. This cannot be avoided. Ask yourself the following questions: Am I living fully right now? Is my vocation in alignment with the universal spiritual principles of love and compassion? Am I living my life’s calling? Am I willing to go to any length to offer the world my genius? 1

1.30 vyadhi styana samshaya pramada alasya avirati bhranti-darshana alabdhabhumikatva anavasthitatva chitta vikshepa te antarayah

The nine barriers that pose obstacles on the path to Yoga are:

  • 1  Physical illness and disease (vyadhi)

    You have vowed to get serious about living your ideals and exemplify the spiritual principles of devotion, and meditation. But as dawn knocks on your eyelids, the pain in your back and knees begin their revolt putting a siege on your motivation and good intentions of yesterday. You still have an hour that you had dedicated to your spiritual practice to lay in bed and delicately ease your joints, or your could endure the anguish and limp to the bathroom and start getting ready for morning meditation. The choice is yours?

    When Pain Becomes a Blessing

    Sometimes physical pain can come as a blessing. There was a man who had a zest for living a hard and fast life combined with an extraordinary zeal for spirituality. Drugs, booze, and parties were a nightly thing. And when he could party no more, he would diligently begin his spiritual routine resolving never to enter the party scene again. But hard as he may try, after a few days he would be at it again. The routine would present itself with ridiculous regularity.

    Soon he began praying for God to intervene. One day he got so sick and tired of the discord within his heart between spirituality and debauchery, that he strolled onto a Highway and stepped in front of a Mac Truck. The trucks impact threw him onto oncoming traffic through the windshield of another vehicle. He remembers laying in the backseat of the car with the driver running outside hysterical, before losing consciousness. "Wow, he is actually really trying to pull out his hair...mmm", was his last thought.

    That incident left him severly damaged physically, so much so that he could not run around as much as he used to. As time went on the pain got worse, and by 2015 his back, and both knees were so bad that he could not go out much. During this one year break from self sabotage, our renegade friend made spiritual progress by leaps and bounds. He also made some incredible insights into his behaviour. He realized that the trauma he was inflicting on himself is a typical behaviour of people who suffer from PTSD. For people who have endured trauma in the past, it becomes habitual to recreate situations of intense suffering becuase that is what they are familiar with.

    No matter how comfortable a life you dish out to them, if they have not realized why they perpetuate reenactment , they will sabotage whatever beautiful they have, throwing away all material success and human relationships down the gutter as quickly as they got it.

    This is why you find so many homeless people lose their homes and relationships, time and again. They just cannot come to the realization that they cannot live in a stable environment. It literaly scares them to death. But once they realize this, there is no stopping to the miracles they are capable of manifesting, provided they vow to deal with the rest of the demons waiting around the corner for an opprotunity to drag them back into hell.

    Fortunately, not every soul has such a dramatic and gruesome lesson to endure through in one lifetime. Yet we are all given burdens, burdens that may seem too heavy for our fragile hearts to bear the anguish of. But if you call onto the angels of mercy with sincere conviction, to help you summon the hidden courage within, you will find that the laws of nature does not allow us to create more suffering than we can bear. Help will come if you allow it to.

  • 2  Mental lethargy resulting in lack of will (styana)

    Mental lethargy was introduced in sutra 1:6 and 1:10. These are thought patterns that lead to the absence of motivation and hope. They are known in Yoga as Sloth, or Apathy (nidra). The clinical term for this emotional state is depression. Depression is characterized by feelings of despair, hopelessness, and emptiness. When pain from rejection and failure exceeds ones capacity to tolerate such anguish, mental lethargy ensues. In this state, you have gone beyond fear. When apathy rules your mind, then spirituality has no place in it.

  • 3 Doubt, hesitation, lack of faith (samsaya)

    Our doubts are traitors
    And makes us lose the good we oft might win
    By fearing to attempt
    -Shakespeare

    Fear is the umbrella that fosters indecision and insecurity. If there are areas of uncertainty that are preventing you from living a life of love and compassion, than you need to transcend it by getting to the root of the problem. Begin by looking at the family environment in which you were reared as a child. The most powerful impressions upon our subconscious are carved between the ages of 0 and 10.

    Do your moments of doubt and hesitation frequent the areas of your life which are the same areas in which the dreams of those who reared you were derailed? Then look at your school years, society, relationships, and the media. Can your lack of faith in yourself, life, and spirituality be attributed to experiences stemming from any of these sources?

    Simone grew up in an abusive environment where there was a display of strong suspicion and disgust for people who had any type of material success. As she grew into adulthood, Simone found herself holding jobs that can be best described as mediocre, despite having an ingenious mind for sales and marketing. Her disatisfaction with life led to a nervous breakdown after which Simone went onto disability.

    On disability Simone started taking painkillers to ease her suffering, emotional and physical. When painkillers from doctors were not enough, she started buying them off the street. One day a dealer handed Simone One Paper ($10 heroin), which unbeknownst to Simone, was lazed with fentanyl, a deadly opioid.

    Simone overdozed and ended up in hospital. After a couple of days in ER, she was transferred to the psychiatric ward at Vancouver General Hospital. This was an all time low in the life of this beauutiful, and brilliant soul. She had hit rock bottom. After spending two months in the hospital, Simone came home to an empty, lonely, and hopeless life.

    A few days into an existence in hell, she lost all pride, which turned out to be a blessing. It was as if she no longer had an ego. When this happened she also lost all fear, but at that time, she was not aware of what was happening to her. It was like the bestowment of grace to which the recipient is completely oblivious. "Well, now I have nothing to lose because everyone knows I am a total loser." she thought. So without any fear Simone began developing a program that would help companies with sales and marketing without caring if it was going to be successful or not.

    In the past she refrained from such creative ventures for the fear that her creation may turn out to be mediocre subjecting her to ridicule. You will be surprised how many people never dare question the operations of their ignorant mind because they fear it would cost them popularity point!

    To her surprise, what she created put her on a track to becoming financially secure, and most importantly fearlessly creative. Within three years, she knew what her vocation(dharma), or sacred duty in life was. She also had numerous beautiful, and loving friends. But the best thing she told me happened to her was, "When you are fearless, you find that you are motivated by love. I always wondered if I was living my life’s calling and maximizing my inner genius?"

    Yogis believe that our greatest responsibility in life is to this inner possibility. To unearth our Dharma Not only did Yogis name this inner genius but they created a detailed method to fulfilling it. Bringing forth this inner potential requires tremendous courage because doubt assails your every move. If doubts and hesitations are not addressed, they will quickly dampen whatever enthusiasm you have mustered in the pursuit of your duty.

  • 4  Carelessness and negligence (pramada)

    Lack of care for self and others is an open invitation to chaos. People invite chaos because they seek attention. Attention that will have others feel sorry for them, or in their warped perception, admire them. Most times they do this unconsciously because this has become a habit. People who have a life of disorder and confusion develop a victim identity in which they are unfortunate struggling victims in need of rescue. Sometimes a chaotic situation is created to solidify ones identity as a victim, othertimes, as a rescuer; and don't be surprised if one pulls off living both in the same hour.

    Spirituality has no breathing room in a chaotic environment. You can use this software, or some other means to find out when, where, how, and with who do you act out these identities. Also jot down snap shots of times in your life to determine who were the people that trained you in this vocation of ineptitude. Then know that you are not your weaknesses, and begin the work of unveiling the caring, loving, and compassionate being that you are through the art of Yoga.

  • 5 Poison-mouthed (alasya)

    Resentment, bitterness, and vengeance lead to insensitivity which makes the heart so vile that the mouth begins to spew poison. Hemlock, in a poison-mouthed individual saturates that persons entire being, it no longer remains a matter of the mouth. A Poison-mouthed person has intense desire to inflict pain, suffering, and humiliation onto others and deriving pleasure from it - in the process as thought, or when the actions are successful. In time, the envy within the soul of such a person leads to sadism. Their victim does not necessarily have to be someone who has slighted them, it could be anyone, or anything.

    People who do this, feel strongly that they are undeserving of love and compassion. A person who has no love oneself, may have extreme difficulty loving God, or goodness. There are times when a person may think that they can be compassionate to others despite being unkind to themselves, but if they are lucky enough to mature in spirit, they realize otherwise.

  • 6 Incontinence, intemperance (avirati)

    Incontinence and intemperance has to do with being undisciplined and addicted to life's pleasures. The motto here is, "Nothing in moderation." There are different flavours of this disease. Some people cannot be moderate with anything that gives them pleasure. They need the buzz from the dopamine, and the high of the endorphins constantly. People can be addicted to almost anything that changes the chemistry of the brain, even pain. Some people are boogying out all the time, some a few times a week, some go 'on and off' for sustained periods of time. Some people are overly moderate even in moderation, as in anorexia. This is why Lord Krishna in The Gita and The Buddha suggest the middle path.

    There are advanced Yogi'd who meditate for extensive periods of time and if we did not know what the life of the Yogi, or a monk meditating in the cave for 30 years entails; we could make a hasty decision that they are in a state of incontinence. They are not. They can influence all life forms and energy patterns throughout the universe just by sitting in the cave. That is their work. The work of these Yogi's and their prayers are what sustains this world. If they stopped their spiritual practice, the world world devolve into anarchy. We shall discuss this in more detail later.

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    7 Ignorance, False opinion, perplexity as a result of false understanding (bhranti-darshana)

    To dispel ignorance is to realize the nature of reality. Our prejudices and biases pose the greatest obstacle in the path of Yoga. Our ego is what perpetuates false opinion and no one is exempt from it. Ignorance is not only the lot of the uneducated, but is steeped in greater density amongst the educated. With most people, the more educated, and ambitious they are, the greater their sense of perplexity in situations of insecurity.

    While working on this project I met a recently graduated psychiatrist who upon seeing this framework got flushed with insecurity and commented thus, "You are giving people a framework to become intimately aquainted with their thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Would people actually want to become intimate with the feelings of shame, anger, and disdain within their heart? Would you?"

    This individual was so steeped in ignorance that she didn't care that this is what her job is. I wasn't surprised because I had seen this many times before. I realized instantaneously that this comment was made due to fear and insecurity within this persons own heart. The person had gone to school for a dozen years and now had the bragging right and an air of "The Educated" as a doctor. This whole innovation burst that bubble.

    Later, when she realized that I was onto her, she quickly changed gears and says, "You know what, if I was you, I would not put all the research information explaining people why they do what they do when under the preassure of an emotion. And personally, I would have no time to look at the reports...so you should take that out also."

    The real reason behind her reacting in this manner was fear. Fear, that once people have the knowledge of why they do what they do, then they will be empowered to make the necessary decisions themselves. Who will need shrinks.

    David Bohm, Dr Deepak Chopra, and many other progressive and introspective people gave neumerous interviews in which they mentioned how ignorance in the area of science is negatively impacting truth and reality. Most scientists and doctors become so used to their way of seeing things that they don't want to change it. Remember, they are human, and most of them went to school to get a PhD so they could secure a livelyhood just like everyone else. If they begin acknowledging the new discoveries then their education and expertise are no longer valid.

  • 8 Not being able to gain firm ground due to lack of practice (alabdha-bhumikatva)

    Lack of practice can happen for many other reasons apart from the ones above. Every now and then we all perceive the need to make the necessary changes in our lives that give it purpose and meaning. As a result, many of us embark on this journey of transcending our suffering with great zeal, only to abandon our efforts at a later date due to the burden of mounting disappointments, and lack of evidence into support if our efforts are bearing fruit. It is our lack of faith, and reluctance to take seriously the possibility that the universe just might be cooperating with our efforts that fosters lack of practice.

    The reason one does not see evidence of meditation is due to the Ego's desperate opposition to change. Experimentation with the reinvention of a new self is death to our ego, and this is absolutely unacceptable. Because of the It is not you that lacks faith, but its the ego which is manipulating you into thinking so. Change is so scary that even when success comes, we feel undeserving, and like frauds. When the favorable results to our efforts show up through one door, we exit out the other. We do exactly what the Ego strategizes never realizing that in the game of this Ego Preservation we have willingly decided not to evolve or grow.

    The shift to spiritual dependency is a gradual one, and also depends much on your progress in previous lives towards honing of your spiritual skills. Before any solid evidence can be garnered, one needs to move from thoughts, emotions, and intentions that produce suffering to the ones that instill tranquillity and cultivate compassion. In other words, from the Sympathetic Nervous System to the Parasympathetic Nervous System. That is why all spiritual teachers have emphasized the importance for non-attachment to results of your actions. If you expect results from your practice, then you are still thinking from the Sympathetic Nervous System. In Yoga, you practice because it is your duty, and you love because that is the way of the universe. In time, the evidence will arrive.

  • 9 Various distractions of the mind-stuff due to lack of attention (chitta-vikshepa )

    How Distractions Manifest

    Our experiences shape our thoughts, feelings, and emotions which fuels our motive. Over time our thoughts and feelings become repetitive and we fall into certain habits or a state of being. These habits create connections in our brain that influence our capacity to love, and our disposition to anger, fear, and anxiety .

    If our thoughts, feelings and intent(state of being) are laced with anger, doubt, and fear our heart rhythms become erratic and disorganized. As a result we manifest in our lives dissatisfaction, chaos and suffering; even though our desire may be for the opposite. Distraction and lack of attention is our reaction to this chaos that perculates in our mind.

    How Coherence Manifests

    On the other hand, positive emotions of kindness and compassion in thought, feeling and intent, produce highly ordered coherent patterns referred to as heart coherence. Coherence implies order, structure, harmony, and alignment within and amongst systems—whether in atoms, organisms, social groups, planets, or galaxies. This state of being strenghthens our focus and sense of purpose. It is also essential for bringing about a change that is universally beneficial to all of existence, including us.

    In order to create the life we desire, we need to unearth and identify the barriers hindering our creative abilities. Before a wound can be healed, and our creative abilities restored, it must be exposed. This software enables us to record our thoughts, feelings, and intentions(our state of being) as we interact with ourselves and our surroundings. This process will enable you to unearth the barriers in the path of your creative ability and hapiness effectively and efficiently.

  • 1.30 vyadhi styana samshaya pramada alasya avirati bhranti-darshana alabdhabhumikatva anavasthitatva chitta vikshepa te antarayah
  • vyadhi - disease, illness, sickness

  • styana - mental laziness, inefficiency, idleness, procrastination, dullness

  • samshaya - indecision, doubt

  • pramada - carelessness, negligence

  • alasya - sloth, languor, laziness

  • avirati - sensuality, want of non-attachment, non-abstention, craving

  • bhranti-darshana - false views or perception, confusion of philosophies (bhranti - false; darshana - views, perception)

  • alabdha-bhumikatva - failing to attain stages of practice (alabdha - not obtaining; bhumikatva - stage, state, firm ground)

  • anavasthitatva - instability, slipping down, inability to maintain

  • chitta-vikshepa - distractions of the mind (chitta - mind field; vikshepa - distractions, diversions)

  • te - they are, these are

  • antarayah - obstacles, impediments

  • References
  • Introduction to the Study of the Hindu doctrines

    1.
    by René Guénon
  • The Great Work of Your Life

    2.
    by Stephen Cope