Normally you start practicing yoga once or twice a week with a teacher, in group classes. With the passage of time and feeling the benefits of yoga in our body and mind, the practice can become a daily discipline, what we call sadhana . Through this constant practice, we ensure the continuity of the benefits.
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When we have decided that we want yoga to be part of our life, either through guided classes, or through individual practice, obstacles can arise in practice (and will surely arise). They are the stones in the road. The yoga practitioner is always tripping over them, one way or another. It is therefore important to know what is happening. Patanjali studied them and exhibited them in their Yoga Sutras and are the following (do not occur in this order nor do they all have to occur):
When we get sick (vyadhi)
I have the flu, I’ve been injured, my head hurts. Physical problems quickly take us out of practice, as our mind tells us that we should wait to be fine to continue with the practice.
The lethargy in practice (styana)
By lethargy we understand a submission to moods . We find ourselves without strength for practice. These are the most common causes:
- The power plays an important role in yogic practice. Normally, this is regulated almost naturally, since the practice itself encourages a fair diet without excess, light, easily digested, allowing a light body and easy movement.
- The cold also plays against the practitioner of yoga, since what suits our muscles is heat. That is why it is important to warm up with exercises like the suryanamaskar (salute to the sun) that allow us to stretch well afterwards, without the risk of injury. The soil temperature is also important, since a cold floor subtract heat to the body almost certain.
- The mental discourse accelerated, is another obstacle to practice. If we have a problem that occupies us mentally it might be necessary to exercise relaxation first, through breathing and a resting asana, like savasana (lying face up with arms and legs half open). In that way we will lower the mental discourse. Thus, we can achieve moments of non-thought during the practice of hatha yoga, since that is where we will connect with ourselves.
What if I doubt myself and my practice? (samsaya)
When we are comfortable with a yogic practice, which brings us benefits, the tendency is to repeat it. Moreover, to repeat an asana or a series of asanas is positive, to advance and deepen in it. Each time we do it, the asana is different than the previous time. Or so it could be. But when we introduce automatisms, we leave the breath and the connection with our interior . And that’s when we find the same asana as the day before. And we began to doubt the practice. Maybe I think yoga is not what it used to be, I’ve tired of repeating the same thing always. Or I’ve tired of the teacher … .. or of myself. I have a hard time removing the mat and, once again, repeating the series of asanas.
And there may arise questions like:
- Is it worth continuing?
- Do I really serve for this?
- Do I need another teacher?
- Is what I know enough?
- What if I change?
It is interesting to observe, what sensations produce these questions, since they could have their origin in situations that have nothing to do with practice. What external factor is influencing those questions? Maybe I can change my way of doing things, to see what is happening? Is there any external situation that makes me think this way? Just observe, what is happening to me? And see what happens. Hold and observe. The obstacles are natural in practice . Nothing happens.
If we keep the attention to the breath and the micro movements within the posture / asana, it will be different every time. Because every moment is different from the previous one if we live it fully . In this way, we will not feel boredom, repetition. We can also talk with our teacher. Communication with our teacher can be very important at this time.
The hurry in yoga (pramada)
We are trying to stall our practice, because we have not taken enough time to analyze and reflect on what we are doing. We go so fast that we slip and fall, preventing us from moving forward. Yoga is a practice that involves the relationship with oneself . That is to say, each moment of the practice is a connection with what we are . Doing yoga without paying attention to what happens, with the eagerness to get somewhere, stagnates us in practice. We can ask ourselves:
- Where do I want to go?
- Do I want to get where others come?
- Do I want to touch the feet or place the hands as the teacher places them?
- Do I want to be able to control something?
- What do I want for me?
- Am I really watching what is happening?
- what’s going on?
If during the practice we are watching the clock, if I advance or not, if I will be doing well and this type of mental discourse, we will stagnate . The important thing is to be where I am, doing what I am doing and observing what happens. I do not have to get anywhere, I just have to observe and be aware of what is happening.
In the 8 steps of yoga (ashtanga), systematized by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras , the first is precisely this: to become aware of what is happening . But not only in the practice of hatha yoga, but also in daily life.
Resignation or exhaustion (alasya)
Lack of energy and enthusiasm, physical and mental exhaustion. “Maybe I’m not the right person for this.” In these cases, it is necessary to recover the lost energy. Sometimes life takes away our vital energy, external events rob us of prominence. Re-connecting through rest, relaxation, bathing in natural waters, massage with essential oils, can help us recover the energy we lack.
My senses distract me (avirati)
The senses gain without realizing, becoming masters and our mind their servant. We usually give an account when we are already inside. It is normal since we are used to that, we have learned to follow our 5 senses. To counteract this obstacle, the first thing is to become aware of what is happening. And from there, take control of the situation and recover the practice. A few minutes of meditation before practicing, can help us become aware of where we are, and approach the practice from another place.
Ignorance / arrogance (bhrantidarsana)
It is the most dangerous of the obstacles. We believe that we have reached the truth, the zenith of our learning. When in fact what happens to me is that I am in a period of calm that tells me “I’m on the right track”. When this obstacle appears, I think I know everything. But it is an illusion. It is important to maintain the “beginner’s mind” since each moment is different from the previous one and is therefore unique. What will happen today will be different than what happened yesterday.
When we lose the illusion (alabhabhumikatva)
It usually happens, that we believe that we are moving forward when suddenly, we realize that we still have a lot to do . We are disappointed, we have mood swings. We are not interested in trying again, changing the way we do things. We do not want to take more steps. We even thought: “this is not for me, I thought yes but now I realize that no”.
Loss of confidence (anavasthitvani)
We face the truth face to face, everything is too simple to see itself smaller and less important than it really is. Maybe we have been at a point that we have never achieved before and we have fallen again, losing what we had gained. We lose confidence in ourselves and in yoga.
At no stage of the path of yoga should we think we are experts. What is more appropriate is to think that the feeling of being a little better today than we were yesterday is as strong as the hope that we can be a little better tomorrow .