Obstacles in Yoga - Part 1
On the journey of Yoga the sadhaka comes across many obstacles. Therefore it
is very important to know what the common obstacles are and how to overcome
The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, one of the most authoritative texts on Hatha Yoga,
lists the following six things as obstacles to Yoga:
- Heavy physical labor
- Too much talking
- Observances of severe vows
- Mixing with common people
The system of Hatha Yoga mainly deals with fine tuning the body and Prana so
that the sadhaka can easily obtain Raja Yoga. Hence the nature of the above
obstacles is more or less physical.
On the other hand the Patanjali's Yoga Sutras (also called as Raja Yoga
Sutras) lists the following nine factors as obstacles to Yoga.
- Craving for material objects
- Wrong perception
- Failing to attain stages of the practice
As you can see the above nine obstacles are related more to mind stuff than
physical body. This is obvious because Raja Yoga is a science of mind and it
assumes that you have toned your body to practice techniques mentioned therein.
Let's try to explore each obstacle in a bit detail.
This is a very important factor that people miss out. Many people simply
don't stop eating the whole day. Sometimes I feel that the number of people dying by overeating is
possibly much more than the number of people dying because of starvation
Overeating brings all sorts of other illnesses including obesity, heart troubles
and digestive disorders. Oily and spicy food taken for the sake of pleasing the
tongue puts a heavy burden on the digestive system. Our stomach is not a factory
to work 24/7 and it eventually breaks down if continuously overloaded. The
energy that should have been otherwise utilized for higher practice is wasted in
digesting the food alone. Hence moderate diet is a must for any Yoga
practitioner. If you follow the path of moderate diet you will wonder how diet
affects the quality of your practices such as meditation.
It is often asked that how much is enough? Yoga and Ayurveda says that
you should fill half the stomach with food, one quarter with water and remaining
quarter should be left empty for gases. Also, one should offer everything that
is being consumed to Lord Shiva. Keep in mind that "amount of food taken" and
"amount of energy spend" must have a proper balance.
The other question is what to eat? If you are practicing Yoga for general
health and not for spiritual purposes then you may consult a diet expert to
chalk out a diet plan for you. Many books are available in the market on the
subject which you may refer. If you are practicing Yoga for self-realization
then still more care is required. In my personal opinion being "fruiterian" is
the best way. The "fruiterian" diet includes fruits, grains, vegetables, cow
milk and home made ghee. No spices or oil allowed. An easy and healthy recipe
that you can try is khichari of rice or wheat, mung dal and vegetables. In Indian
food often the amount of salt is much more than that is required by the body.
Salt must be consumed in very small quantity. If possible add buttermilk (not
ready made from market) to your menu. If you consume milk do not eat other
things such as fruits along with it immediately. Let there be some gap.
The third question is how often to eat? I recently came across an article
from a reputed magazine where in many diet experts suggested 5-6 servings a day.
I personally strongly discourage this for sincere Yoga practitioners. In my
opinion light breakfast, fruterian lunch, light afternoon snacks and fruterian
dinner is more than sufficient. Of course you need to adjust your intake
depending on your body constitution. People often consume chips, wafers, nuts
and chocolates the whole day as if stomach will stop working if you don't put
something in. The way we need rest the digestive system also needs rest to
In a modern city life majority of people take dinner very late in the night.
I know some people who consume food at 12 O'clock in the night! This is a very
wrong habit. Eating around 8 PM is in my opinion the right time for dinner. Also,
make sure to turn that TV set off while you dine and concentrate on food and
nothing else. When you eat let good thoughts be in your mind and do not think
about your office and work. Many people think about food when they are
working and they think about work when they are eating. Isn't it funny? After you have your
dinner there should be at least 2 hours gap before you go to bed.
So the bottom line is "If you want to become a Yogi you must learn to
control your eating habits".
More on other obstacles soon :-)