YOGA-ARTICLE: Patanjali On the Obstacles In Yoga

In our lives, we often face a number of obstacles that prevent us from achieving our goals. In addition to the circumstances that we can not influence, there are those that are entirely dependent on us. It is in our power to manage our will, attention, effort, and time, and to make our goals and plans a reality.

In Open Yoga school, we believe that Yoga is life, and the laws in Yoga and in life are universal. The famous treatise “Yoga Sutras of Patanjali” describes the main obstacles in Yoga practice. Knowing these impediments will make it easier to eliminate them. We will be able to achieve results faster and reach a new level of our development.

The Sutras describe nine factors: “physical illness, apathy, doubt, negligence, laziness, cravings, false perception, inability to achieve any stage of concentration, mental instability — these distractions of consciousness are obstacles.” Let’s look at each one in more detail.

The state of our body is so important that it can unsettle even experienced practitioners. Our body is a basis for all the processes that take place in all its systems, including in the mind. If something is wrong with the foundation, then every block will be unstable and it will lead to the destruction of the entire building.
Therefore, we should look after our body, satisfy its basic needs for physical activity, good nutrition, fresh air, take every possible care and listen to it, bringing harmony to every movement.

Apathy is expressed in indifference, in a detached attitude to what is happening, in the absence of a desire for any activity, a decrease in volitional activity. Apathy can be called a mental illness when a person does not want to focus on the practice and his/her consciousness seems to wander. It is very difficult to get over this condition and start practicing again. It usually happens after some tragic events and takes time to recover.

The best thing is to get distracted: watch a good old movie, read an inspiring book, take a walk in the park, etc. The main thing is not to allow negative thoughts to take over.


Doubt is the turmoil in the mind, the inability to make the right choice or uncertainty about the correctness of it. It is another mental illness that consumes a lot of energy. “Doubt is equal to treachery!” — says the Tibetan wisdom.

Before making a decision, we need to carefully weigh all the pros and cons, but when the decision is made, we should go all the way. Whilst the uncertainty is very exhausting, it is much better to fulfill something and make a mistake than to keep treading water. At the very least, we will gain invaluable experience.


Negligence means unwillingness to make efforts to study a subject or problem in detail. To get the job done quickly and easily, we need to focus our will on the subject under study, and to get all the details. Better yet, break a large task into many smaller ones. Sometimes a problem seems unsolvable and complex. But if it is divided into subtasks, everything becomes surmountable.


When we feel lazy, it feels as if we flounder into a morass; we need to make an effort, but feel like we can’t. Everyone is subject to laziness. But it is worth distinguishing the state of fatigue from laziness. You will agree that there is a big difference between a well-deserved rest after fruitful work and lazy idleness, which makes us feel even more tired.

If we keep being lazy for a long time, life will make us feel uncomfortable and force us to move our legs in some way. Remember that a human has infinite potential!


In this case, it is a failure to regulate the desire for worldly objects. This desire splits our focus and directs it away from internal sensations, to the intention to possess the object of our desire at any cost. If we do not learn to control our cravings, we will always fall back to the object of our passionate desire, thereby depriving ourselves of the result of the practice.

Ideally we should avoid contact with the objects for which we tend to experience uncontrolled passion. To fill the gap we should study ourselves and prepare ourselves for the object of desire, which means learning to control ourselves or practicing self-control when we touch the coveted object and being able to let it go on time, before it leads to any negative consequences.

False perception

False perception implies that we perceive one thing as something else. In other words, we take the error at face value, thereby wasting our energy and not getting the desired result.

You can eliminate distorted perception by carefully choosing the sources of information, as well as connecting your mind and logic as much as possible.

Inability to reach any stage of concentration

Concentration is the ability to willingly direct attention to an object, and keeping it for a long time. The inability to concentrate can be associated with various reasons. As we practice, we go through a series of stages of concentration. Therefore, before proceeding to the next stage, consideration should be given to the previous ones.

In particular, the biggest obstacle is the inability to control our feelings. At the most crucial moment, they can throw us off balance and devalue all efforts. If we are able to hold our attention, to focus on the object, without being influenced by the senses, we will achieve greater success in practice.

We should remember that we are not our feelings and emotions! Emotions come and go, but there is something never changing, something that is called the Higher Self, the omnipotent, the omniscient, the indivisible.

Mental instability 

During practice, very often our thoughts are carried far beyond the area in which we really need to act. It is necessary to make every effort not to be distracted by third-party ideas for a long time, but to focus on the main thing. This is the only way to make pranas circulate freely within us.

In life, as in the practice of Yoga, it is necessary to remove obstacles on your path. By building a strong foundation for a healthy body, working with our desires and passions, overcoming laziness, negligence and false perception, putting our feelings and emotions under control, trying our best to focus on our feelings, we can achieve any goal in the most harmonious way for us!

Wishing you peace and prosperity

Author of the article: Marina Mirra

Photo from the MOYU archive

Edited by A. Zlobin, M. Saraswati Bhavani

Editor-in-Chief: Mirra

Project curator: Kerigona

Translated: Elena Samma, Tatiana Sugrue, Larisa Skibina

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