and How I try to Overcome Them
In Patanjali's Yoga Sutras there are 9 obstacles to the path of Yoga listed. They are: illness, lethargy, doubt, haste or impatience, resignation or fatigue, distraction, ignorance or arrogance, inability to take a new step, and loss of confidence. Each yoga practitioner will face one or more of these obstacles in their practice. I face them all the time.
A month into my practice I developed bronchitis, which I am prone to at least once a year. Of course it set me back. Sort of hard to try to breathe when your lungs are filled with mucus. It took me a week to recover, but a month to stop hacking stuff up. Challenging to try to practice when I was coughing every five minutes, but I did the best that I could do and dropped into child's pose as often as I needed. Yoga is about going into your own comfort zone and trying to accomplish a little bit more each time.
There are moments when I want to hit the snooze on my 5AM alarm and let myself sleep in till 630. There are also moments when I catch myself zoned out for 5 minutes while brushing my teeth. Sometimes, I even walk into class half asleep.
No matter how I feel going into class, I know I am going to feel 100% better when I come out of savasana. It was crazy the first time I walked into work with a smile on my face. I'm pretty sure people were wondering what I was smoking. Starting my days with yoga actually helps my attitude and gives me the stamina to keep on through my 15 hour days.
At the start of my practice, my mind was always extremely negative to me. "You look ridiculous doing that post", "you won't ever be bendy enough to do that pose", or my favorite "you're going to fall on your butt". Out of all the obstacles, this one is the hardest one for me to conquer.
It's crazy to think how many people are controlled by the negativity that their mind spews. We are our own worst critics. When I first started, I had a lot of internal brain chatter. Through the practice, the brain chatter diminishes a little each time. I feel stronger in poses that I found challenging and I am more willing to try new poses.
I also have to give thanks to my teachers for helping me with this obstacle. Through their guidance and experience, I feel comfortable to attempt harder poses. If you are new to the practice, I suggest building a bond with a teacher that has expertise on what you are looking to accomplish from your practice. It might take a while to find the right teacher, but it's a worth while search.
Haste or Impatience
I once read an article from yahoo in which the author wrote that one of the benefits from yoga is that you don't suffer injuries. I disagree with that. Injuries from yoga can come from over-stretching or being over confident and trying advanced poses.
I once asked my teacher when will my hamstrings be loose enough for me to do poses easily. He told me ten years or more. Being the queen of impatience, my mouth dropped in disbelief. Of course it was his own sarcastic way of telling me that when it happens, it'll happen. There's no way of telling when it will. Through practice it will happen. You can't force it to happen, all you can do is breathe and practice.
In this respect, yoga actually has taught me something about patience. Things will run their own course and sometimes, there's not jack you can do about it so just go with the flow :]
Resignation or Fatigue
Self- doubt has often made me believe that yoga wasn't for me. I have thought about quitting more than once when I first started. It was so easy to get caught up in that negativity especially in my Ashtanga class where fellow practitioners are bending in ways I didn't think were possible. Through the guidance of my teachers I was able to find that motivation to keep going. They encouraged me to believe in myself by helping me break that wall of pessimistic nagging that the mind has engulfed me in.
Fatigue is another crazy obstacle to break through. We all have busy lives.. work, school, family, appointments, etc etc etc. It's hard to get to a yoga class when there are so many other things that demand our time. With that said, don't forget to give yourself a pat on the back for making it to a class. Not going to lie, some of the poses were such a challenge for me when I first started (did you know that down dog is suppose to be a relaxation pose?? Sure as hell didn't feel like it). I felt like I was slowing down the class by continually going into child's pose or being insecure and thinking that other students were laughing at me.
Over time I learned that everybody has their own challenges that they are working through. The practice is all about you and your mat. That even though it's a class environment, the only person anybody should be concerned about is themselves. My teacher also taught me that more respect is given to the person that goes into child's pose then the one who struggles to get a pose because the person in child's pose is listening to their body and giving the body what it needs. Child pose is not a punishment, it is a reward to your body for all the hard work it is doing.
Not going to lie.. I get easily SQUIRREL distracted. This is sort of really bad especially when I'm in Mysore and I'm watching people practice second and third series rather than focusing on my own practice. My lack of breathing is the first sign that I am completely distracted since I usually watch my fellow practitioners with my mouth dropped in amazement. I refocus myself by first going into child's pose (again, FRIEND NOT ENEMY) and key in on my breath. I check to see that I have full inhales and exhales before I go into my next pose. Well, I always stall at boats (paripurna navasana) even though I am learning to LOVE them like I love all the other poses. We all have our own challenges, mine is to love boat pose.. (ha!)
Ignorance or Arrogance
For a couple of months I thought my up dog was was the shiznit. Heck, I thought very highly of my vinyasa. That illusion came crumbling down when my teacher pointed out that my vinyasa needed a lot of work. I looked up at him with eyes of confusion as he demonstrated and pointed out why we don't drop all the way down in up dog and other key points that my up dog was lacking. My ego was bruised. My ego wanted to roll up the mat and find a nice dark hole to crawl into. My ego.. I told my ego to put a sock in it since we still had work to do. And work we did.
The mind wants to latch onto control so it will tell you know everything. It will make you believe that you already know what you are doing so you can stop searching. The mind is very sneaky and does not want to be challenged. Regain control by continuing to search and continuing to learn.
Inability to Take a New Step
Some days this is just the case for me. My mind is refusing to cooperate with me or my body is refusing to learn a new pose. Even though I put so much work into my practice and gained so much knowledge, there is even more to learn.
Whenever I feel overwhelmed like that, I make myself go into child's pose until I can regain my breath and regain my focus. When I find myself having too much brain chatter, I find that a headstand usually quiets all the chatter (as explained in my headstand post). When I am trying a difficult pose for myself, I go through a checklist like my teacher taught me. I make sure that my alignment is correct, that I am fully grounded, and that I am breathing. With anything, I try to take it step by step.
Loss of Confidence
There have been days where I just wanted to give up. Days when nonstop brain chatter has rendered my practice useless. There has also been days when poses that were easy as pie the day before proved to be a challenge.
Not every practice is going to be same. Some days we are more bendy then other days, which doesn't matter. What matters is that we do what we can. Yoga is not about over stretching, it's about gradual improvement through holding the poses. We let the breath take us deeper into the pose. Go into class and the only thing that should matter is how well you are breathing.
We Have our own Challenges
As mentioned previously, each practitioner, no matter how many years they have been practicing, face their own individual challenge. The beauty of challenges is that it teaches so us so much more about ourselves and what we are made of. No matter what the challenge is, let the breath guide you through it.