Sutra I.30 – Chapter I, Sutra 30

व्याधिस्त्यानसंशयप्रमादालस्याविरतिभ्रान्तिदर्शनालब्धभूमिकत्वानवस्थितत्वानि चित्तविक्षेपास्तेऽन्तरायाः॥३०॥

vyadhi-styana-samsaya-pramada-alasya-avirati-bhrantidarsana-alabdhabhumikatva-anavasthitatvani citta-viksepah-te-antarayah

The obstacles (antarayas) that lead to lack of mental clarity (citta-viksepah) and therefore bring suffering are: physical disease (vyadhi); mental heaviness (styana); doubt (samsaya); carelessness (pramada); lack of vigor (alasya); excess desire (avirati); extreme perspective (bhrantidarsana); inability to move to the next stage (alabdhabhumikatva); and regression (anavasthitatvani).

PRACTICAL LIVING     There are 9 obstacles, or triggers for mental agitation, that we encounter as human beings. These obstacles create mental disturbances and encourage distractions. The more vulnerable we are to these interruptions, the more difficult it is to reach a state of Yoga (mental clarity and inner peace).

The 9 obstacles and how they manifest are the following:

1. vyadhi – illness or physical disease creates pain and discomfort of sickness, draining our physical energy and preventing us from feeling alive. We have all experienced physical pain in some way or another and know the feeling of becoming self-obsessed with that discomfort and the power it has over our minds. Illness often triggers some of the other obstacles as well.

2. styana – mental fatigue/heaviness or psychological strain, prevents us from thinking and acting properly. This obstacle can be a result of many things, but regardless of the cause, mental heaviness pulls us down, often leading us to a destructive outlook on ourselves, others and life in general. In this state of lack of foresight it is frequently difficult to take action and engage in life in a wonderful way.

3. samsaya – includes both confusion and doubt.  Frequently in need to know everything and control every single detail of our lives (and of others), we over-analyze situations and opinions, ignoring our intuition, or inner trust. In a world that presents us with numerous options from career to partners to travel destinations and dining, we forget to just feel and do, and we instead over intellectualize, which results in doubt and confusion. Faith and trust – sraddha – (Sutra I.20) are essential ingredients in the path of Yoga.

4. pramada – haste, blindness. An agitated mind results in negligence, lack of discipline and clarity. Unable to pause and reflect – atha – Sutra 1.I, we desire things to change now, this very minute, and act impulsively. Lack of patience and the inability to see things clearly results in suffering for ourselves and often of those around us too.

5. alasya – a physical sluggishness manifesting as sloth or laziness. This state can be associated to physical illness or doubt, and typically is related to conditions like depression. Excess sleep, television, video games are good examples of today’s alasya. This is a state of physical paralysis and prevents us from living the vibrant lives we want to live.

6. avirati (a = non, vi = dis, virati = attachment) – two negatives emphasize the positive – when the senses are extremely greedy for stimulation (overindulgence) we grab onto objects, people or ideas in order to ‘feel better’. Avirati is closely linked to various degrees of addiction, where one will use external stimulus to avoid emotions that have not properly dealt with. This over attachment provokes extravagance, intemperance, and an excessive desire for superficial pleasures.

7. bhrantidarsana – an illusion, an ill-grounded opinion or a narrow-minded perspective. Frequently related to the previous obstacle, this illusion causes us to grab onto some idea that makes us feel good, causing us to consider things exclusively from one angle. Fanaticism is caused by this obstacle, whether it’s an opinion on politics, education, pregnancy or Yoga.

8. alabdhabhumikatva – inability to progress or to reach the goal we have visualized. Factors such as a lack of patience or perseverance may paralyze our progress and distract us from goals which require energy, effort and persistence. This failure leads to irritation and anger with oneself. This obstacle can be related to many of the previous ones.

9. anavasthitatva – regression, or the inability to maintain the state we worked hard to attain. We may have worked hard for a job, a certain state of mind through Yoga, a peaceful state in a relationship, but are unable to keep it up. Like my wise mother says, any relationship requires a daily “watering of the plant” to maintain its health.

In summary, these antarayas are all connected and often work in unison. Physical illness causes heaviness. A heavy mind is one in permanent confusion because it doesn’t have the ability for comprehension. With lack of clarity comes carelessness and lethargy. In a state of disconnect with our inner light, we lose connection toward a higher goal, causing us to seek for sensual pleasures to ‘fulfill’ us. The last 2 obstacles refer to the inability to reach a goal, or reaching it and then losing it. This happens in life, and if we accept that, move on and start all over again the first 6 obstacles don’t agonize us.

IN THE YOGA WORLD     These 9 obstacles can be related to another concept Yoga presents us with when describing the material world (body, thoughts, emotions and nature, in general). Nature can be described as changing in three different ways: rajas (fast, like fire); tamas (slow, like a rock); or sattva (balanced, in the appropriate way). The obstacles show that we tend to be either in a state of extreme rajas (desiring, attaching, anxious to get something or somewhere) or in a state of tamas (heavy, lethargic, dull, unable to act or change). Sattva is clarity, it’s the state we are aiming to cultivate more and more through reflection, action and letting go (an important model we will study later in Chapter 2).

INSPIRATIONAL PERSON     Chikaroo is the person that comes to mind when I write this Sutra I.30 - Chiksutra. Our friendship has been bathed with numerous enriching conversations about life and the obstacles we encounter. Through these conversations I grow. She triggers my reflective side to pop up. Her thirst for change, for inner peace, for a great life makes me smile even as I write this. Her sattva (balance) comes out clearly in her generosity, her playfulness, her curiosity for life and how it’s different on all corners of the world. My first LA friend, I thank you for all your love, your time, your awesome dance moves and spontaneous times together! Love you so much Chik!

Do you have any experiences you would like to share? Please interact as much as you like – everyone will learn from your personal experiences!

Thanks and next week we will look at how we can become aware that these obstacles are taking root!

18 thoughts on “Sutra I.30 – Chapter I, Sutra 30

  1. Lucia, as Chickaroo’s mom it brings joy to read her essence captured in your inspirational prose in getting to know one another. Such a pleasure to have met your once and such a comfort it brings to me that you are friends –

  2. I LOVE this Sutra and practical application. I see so many of these obstacles in my life and it’s a good reminder of the freedom which lives in Yoga. I especially relate to samsaya at this point of my journey. The phrase “just feel and do” is just what I need to do right now yet, the mind gets in the way overthinking due to fear and the need to control. I’ll let this be my mantra ❤

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  5. I think that this is a perfect time to respond to this sutra! Just today I went to my acupuncturist because I somehow injured my shoulder (old age) AND I feel like I’m coming down with a cold. So she said no physical activities for a few days. This for me is kind of like torture. With that said, I’ve been kinda down on myself all evening in a very tamasic state of mind. Anyway, here I am commenting on this sutra trying to get into a positive vibe. I told myself, “well Daniel, for the next week you’ll just have to practice yoga in a different way (i.e. reading the yoga sutras)”. Hopefully after this week, my shoulder will be a little bit better and everything else will be a little bit better, and I will have learned a little bit more in the process.

  6. To me, the 9 obstacles are the common negatives that anyone has to deal with. And there could be more than just 9. Could we eliminate one at a time? Just cross out that one that we think we can conquer or have strong influence over. Or better questions, can we subdue them all: no negatives, just living positively. Waking up on a Sunday sunshine morning like this, i can tell myself its a beautiful day, let’s enjoy it, i love myself, and love everyone else around me, and nothing can bring me down. Let’s practice yoga :)….Love 🙂

  7. My three big obstacles would have to be doubt, inability to proceed to the next stage, and regression. Doubt about the decisions I make, my assessment of situations or my personal abilities lead to plateaus in development and I always have trouble connecting where I am to where I want to be. Regression is related, in that without constant action & vigilance, the steps I have taken down a path always seem precarious and temporary.

    Yoga is so helpful in this regard because such a strong tenet is to observe, reflect, change, act, repeat. This proscription allows me to get out of my head, release my hold on doubts, and do the ongoing work of moving forward.

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  9. I see myself having moved in and out of most of these 9 obstacles over the years. Life changes, situations change, and with them can come lack of mental clarity. As Bridget mentioned, that is where Yoga’s quality of observing comes in. Taking a step back, observing and realizing what is occurring, and moving forward making changes. It’s not always easy to see how you are stuck, such as with physical pain, when you are immersed in it. You are in pain and that is all you focus on. Once you take a step back and notice how consumed you are and how that is affecting you mentally and your life overall, you can make changes and allow yourself to move on.

  10. When reading this sutra it reminds me of the physical and mental draw after childbirth. We do not understand that period of time in this culture and how important it is to support and create this space around this huge shift that occurs. Seeing it from this perspective helps to create awareness in how to better align yourself and others around you to honor and support these physical and emotional barriers! Love this one!

  11. This sutra made me chuckle at myself! I could see many of these obstacles in my life. Dought,impatience,distraction,loss of confidence. They all jumped out and said these are your speed bumps.

  12. So this sutra explains everything!! I had great pain in my right hip/leg/knee/foot for over a year. And that pain over that time changed me. I was worn out, I couldn’t focus, I was short tempered, and very quick to judge. My goal was just to get through the day, I had to change my physical practice, and that made me agitated. I was not a happy or a nice person to be around. I tried different types of treatment, and them finally found acupuncture as a last ditch effort, hoping for some relief. Acupuncture and Dr. Jake truly saved my life. Now I realize that the pain in my “ass” not only had a physical effect, but also change my inner person. I am so thankful I am not in that place anymore. This is just one example of how the one obstacle leads to another before we even realize whats going on.

  13. I remember reading once that your “biography becomes your biology”. Stifled emotions can manifest into physical ailments. Likewise, physical ailments can have a negative impact on your emotional body. Looking at the 9 obstacles it’s easy to understand how one can snowball into the others, spiraling out of control. I can see how the practice of yoga can help to step outside of the situation to shift things ever so slightly. One positive shift can also lead to others. Sometimes just getting started is the hardest part.

    • Yes Cristy, they’re all super connected. And the shift begins to happen with simply changing something. So when we find it hard to change, when we feel stuck, the smallest thing can be the biggest step.

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