I want to talk about obstacles. One of my favorite topics. If you are confronting roadblocks in your practice, you are on the right track!
Pantajali lists an impressive amount of obstacles on this path. You will face them, there is no avoiding. Contrary to misinformation, there is no perfect yogi who doesn’t experience them. The aim is to go into them, use them and explore them and go beyond them. They are: Vyadhi: physical illness Styana: lack of interest or enthusiasm Samshaya: doubt or indecision Pramada: carelessness or negligence Alasya: physical laziness Avirati: desire for sense objects Bhrantidarshana: living under illusion or wrong understanding Alabdhabhumikatva: missing the point or inability to hold on to what is achieved Anavasthitatva: inability to maintain the achieved progress. Sliding backwards
Some of the symptoms of these obstacles are Dukha pain or sorrow Daurmanasya: sadness, frustration, depression Angamejayatva: unsteadiness, movement, tremor of the limbs or body Svasa: Irregular inhalation Prasvasah: irregular exhalation.
You might not identify with one of the obstacles but you do with one of the symptoms.
Now that we are in quarantine, we might be feeling that physical laziness or lack of interest or depression caused by being stuck in your house or by all the stress and uncertainty. If you aren't practicing, you are experiencing a loss of progress and sliding backwards.
In the next sutras, Pantanjali lays out a ton of remedies to all these obstacles and the first is to keep your mind focused on one thing and do that one regularly.
Followed that he says: Maitri karuna mudina upeksanam sukha dukha punya apunya visayanam bhavanatah cittaprasadanam
Through cultivation of friendliness, compassion, joy and indifference to pleasure and pain, virtue and vice respectively, the consciousness becomes favorably disposed, serene & benevolent. BKS Iyengar
Or in other words from Reverend Jaganth Carrera, Inside the Yoga Sutras " We need friendliness toward our own happiness, loving compassion for our own sorrow. Be kind to yourself. Joy when we manifest virtues. Strength, patience, and equanimity when working to eliminate our weaknesses. Forgiveness plays an important role with this.”
–Reverend Jaganath Carrera, Inside the Yoga Sutras **
I refer to this sutra a lot because it is so powerful. It, like all the yoga sutras requires action, not just reading and discussing.
When the mind is NOT serene and benevolent, this sutra asks us to take action, be friendly and compassionate and patient, in order to cultivate serenity.
Young girls are trained to be nice and friendly. What that girl learns is to abandon herself and to be falsely friendly.
This is not the kindness Pantanjali is asking for. It’s not asking us to be friendly skin deep and under it all riddled with competitiveness, manipulation, jealousy or judgment.
Nor is meant to be "helpful" to someone whose actions are unhealthy and toxic. Or helping someone to make yourself feel better.
There are some culturaly aspects to being nice I've experienced growing up in California and then living in New York City and London for significant time periods, all have very different ideas of being nice. When I moved to Mexico it was and still is so lovely to be in a place where nice has such a high value. But there is a downside as well. And there are times I really miss the no bs of NYC.
What does being friendly mean to you? Has there been a time when you have been "nice" and you felt terrible afterwards? How were you raised to be friendly or compassionate?
This week, look at the obstacles and see if one jumps out at you. What can you do daily for the next month and see if that obstacle disappears?
Again, If you think you can avoid obstacles on this path of yoga you will be disappointed. Embrace them and then practice the remedies that Pantanjali offers. Get curious and explore yourself deeper so that you move and go beyond!
There are many more remedies that Pantanjali suggests. Chanting om is one of them. Try that next time you come up against one of the obstacles.
When you get to the mat, what ostacle do you face? What is your attitude towards that obstacle?
Which of the principles can you apply to your practice - friendliness, compassion, joy, patience?
There is often a time in practice where you just feel so serene and calm - can you recall a moment? What pose were you doing? Or what poses had you done that led you to feel this way? What actions had to take place to arrive at this state?
The beautiful gift of Iyengar’s work is this idea of hyper focusing on one part of the body to bring a state of serenity to mind. Have you experienced that?
Start in tadasana or a seated position and scan your body and assess the state of your mind.
Come to Tadasana between sides and observe how the body feels and how the mind feels.
**thanks to Julia Shaida's blog for inspiration and guidance. Check it out! It is fantatic.