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Nine Hindrances in Yoga which Interrupt Our Practice & Block yogic Progress

The path of yoga is very long and difficult. There are many hindrances in yoga filled hazard and diversion. However, the yogis who have already traveled on the path of yoga stated all the possible impediments on its path. These obstacles are explained in Yoga-sutra 1.30 of Patanjali. It states, “Vyadhi styana sanshaya pramada alasya avirati bhrantidarshan alabdha-bhumikatva chitta vikshepa te antarayah”. Buddhist literature, Samyutta Nikaya 46.37 and D.2, reveals five major hindrances to meditation. They are as follows: Sensory desire (kamacchanada), Ill-will (vyapada, also spelled vyapada), sloth and lethargy (thina-middha), Restlessness and worry (uddhacca-kukkucca), and suspicion (vicikiccha). Today we are going to discuss the obstacles or hindrances in yoga as per the Patanjali Yoga-sutra.

  1. Sickness (Vyadhi): Improper or abnormal function among various parts of the body and mind in the form of illness or disease. An unhealthy body cannot perform yoga easily. The mind and body of the sick person require healing. The first important thing for the yoga student is to keep his body healthy.
  2. Disinclination (Styana): When there is lack of motivation minds distracts from the duty. Many people have the habit of procrastination, even giving up the duty due to mental restlessness, lack of enthusiasm for practice and so on. Apathy, dullness or inefficiency towards the path is an effective blockage for the progress in the spiritual path.
  3. Doubt (Sanshaya): If we have any types of indecision or doubt about our path, then we lose our mental energy towards that path. Mind swings from the trust. Sometimes, blind trust also hampers on the path. However, lack of conviction and lack of faith in the virtues of practice, sometimes in the teacher or in their methods are the examples of Sanshaya.   
  4. Carelessness (Pramada): Negligence, inattention, heedlessness, carelessness, lack of continuity and focus on practice etc omits or errors the practice. It sabotages the efficacy of our work.
  5. Sloth (Alasya): Laziness, languor, idleness, the habit of abstaining the practice or duty is another enemy on the path of progress which aborts in attaining our highest potentials. Feeling sleepy and tired during meditation creates a problem in the practice. We have the tendency of loving luxury, easiness while yoga requires disciplined and high effort. It needs tireless devotion, tapas (will-power) to be successful.
  6. Non-abstinence (Avirati): Over-attachment or overindulgence towards luxuriance, pleasing things, and comfortable life distract from the duty. The clinging towards the worldly matter should be given up for the true progress in the spiritual path.
  7. Delusion (Bhrantidarshan): Fantasy on image, immature sense of certainty, false vision, wrong understanding about meditation, making a fault in understanding and judgment etc. basically pertaining to practice; the mind accepts the truth an untruth and vice-versa. This misleads the person.
  8. Failure to gain ground (Alabdha-bhumikatva): Unsuccess to achieve next yogic phase or non-attainment of the required accomplishment demotivates in the practice. This slips down the achieved stage as well. The reason behind the unsuccess is faulty or poor practice. This failure discourages the people from the duty.
  9. Instability (Anawasthitatwa): Last but not least instability is counted as hindrances in yoga. Due to practice, some achievements have been achieved but practice is not continued. When there lack persistence or permanence of practice, the attained stage cannot be maintained. So steadiness of practice is very important to maintain the stage and progress forward. After the encounter of these basic hindrances, four normal hindrances may be seen according to the situation. They are the consequences of previous obstacles.  In other words, these four are the symptomatic manifestation of above nine antarayas.   In Patanjali Yoga Sutra it is stated as “dukha daurmanasya angamejayatva swasa-praswasa vikshepa sahabhuvah 1.31”:
  • Duhkha(Pain or sorrow): It is a suffering which may lead to despair. A few people can overcome this suffering, but maximum people cannot tolerate it and give up without reaching the destination.
  • Daurmanasya – It is stated as frustration, depression, despair or sadness caused by non-fulfillment of desires. When one frustrates he will lose the energy for effort. Only hope motivates the further path. If required preaching is given then I can be a great lesson. Arjuna was preached by Lord Krishna at the time of a great despair. If we can understand our depression, it can be open a new gate for success. As light eradicates dark, so understanding eradicates frustration.
  • Angamejayatwa – The shaking, tremor or shivering of parts of the body appears due to above nine Antarayas. Sometimes shivering may occur due to Asana practice, mantra or meditation practice. It is the manifestation of imbalance in mind or in the body. When we encounter this obstacle, then we proceed forward.
  • Shvâsaprashvâsa– It means disturbance in inhalation and exhalation.  Mental and emotional upset brings the irregularities on breaths. So, one should know the art of controlling the breaths. Regular Pranayama helps to overcome it. Besides, a practice of witnessing the breaths helps to stabilize the breaths.

These four are the indicator of the effects of obstacles in a subtle form. One can identify that how much the person is affected due to above nine hindrances in yoga practice. When one faces any obstacle then there is a natural pain. This creates frustration and depression. Sometimes people may shiver the limbs or other parts of the body. Similarly, they may face the unnatural respiration.

When we can be aware of these changes in our body we can control the impacts and get back to the path. So what we need is awareness, watchfulness towards the obstacles and their impacts on us. We need to be mindful so that we won’t be misled. Normally we have a habit of being shaken due to the obstacles. However, if we could develop a habit of witnessing the problems remaining in an equanimous state, the habit patterns slowly transforms.

One should be dedicated towards the goal. More dedication we have more focus we generate. Due to more and more focus, the nine obstacles in yoga and their four effects keep decreasing thoroughly. The mind should also be crystal clear on the path and goal of practice.  It makes the mind single-pointedness which leads to higher experience.