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'Antarayas' or obstacles in spiritual progress - 2

We have been examining 'Antarayas' or 'Obstacles' that stand in the way of sadhana/practice/spiritual progress. We have been evaluating their consequences and possible antidotes.

The fourth Antaraya or obstacle is 'Pramada' or Carelessness. It is interesting that many of us, when we find ourselves under pressure, tend to speed up in order to successfully achieve more. Sometimes, hurrying up can slow you down. Operating quickly instead of taking our time leads to mistakes and causes us to forget and overlook things. Practicing at only the level of the gross body and without the right emotional attitude may turn the positive aspects of Yoga into negative ones.

By contrast if we take time to slow down, breathe properly, observe our experiences and reflect on the process, we can practice with full awareness, achieve 'Samatva' or balance and make real progress. Recognise a 'hurry up' driver, drop the idea of 'perfection', don't 'box-tick' through your practice, prioritise and deeply enjoy your Yoga Sadhana.

'Alasya' or Laziness is the fifth Antaraya, as per Yogasutra. Postponing, procrastinating, complaining and idling can be powerful hindrances in your practice. When people join a yoga class because it is something new or exciting, they run the danger of this initial elation fading away. You either want to experience, to enjoy, to explore and to live yoga, or you’d rather watch as your interest dwindles. Yoga can never excite you. It’s the way you experience the practice that can be exciting. Apply the principles of Kaizen to your Sadhana. Keep small, continuous goals in mind. Nyuntam (small) and Saraltam (easy) changes are sustainable, will keep you engaged and help you progress - without boring you.

The sixth obstacle, as stated in Yogasutra, is 'Avirati'. It is particularly interesting to understand this Antaraya. It means addiction or attachment. A sort of taking over of sense objects - the physical or psychological inability to stop 'consuming' something that looks, feels, sounds, tastes or smells good. In the Bhagawad Gita, which is a book of yoga, Krishna advises Arjun to withdraw from sense objects like the tortoise retracts its limbs. True yoga is an inner journey that takes us to a state where the influence of desires and aversions becomes weaker and weaker.

It is curious to examine our own yoga practice in this light. If one can't get through one's day happily without 'doing' yoga, is yoga itself not becoming unhealthy for the person? To be on the path of yoga is to find happiness within, happiness that is not a function of something external. That is why we strengthen, stretch, observe and relax the body. That is why we employ breath awareness practices. That is why we meditate.

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