There are numerous obstacles which can inhibit your ability to achieve Yoga. Some of these may affect your body on a physical level. However, more often than not it is the mental obstacles which cause problems. These mental obstacles are known in yoga as the Kleshas. The Kleshas are five different mental filters which can obscure your perception, therefore impacting on your ability to respond to an event in an appropriate manner.
The five Kelshas are:
1. Avidya - Ignorance or rather incorrect knowledge. Often Avidya is accumulated through a person’s cultural conditioning. Avidya is present when we make assumptions and decisions based on untrue knowledge.
2. Asmita - Ego or I-am-ness. This occurs when people see themselves as distinct individuals who must be competitive rather than act as a collective group. Common thoughts influenced by Asmita include, “I know I am right,” or “I am better than that person.”
3. Raga - Attachment. Raga presents itself when people are attached to particular stories about themselves or are attached to the idea they must acquire certain material things in order to achieve happiness.
4. Dvesa - Avoidance. Dvesa is present when someone has a bad experience and are afraid of repeating it again so they avoid the situation, place or people in which that experience occurred in.
5. Abinivesa - Fear. This can be described as doubts, uncertainty and or avoidance and occurs on many levels of human functioning. Abhinvesa can cause a person to either act or not act out of fear.
Despite the power of the Kleshas there are ways to limit their effect on your perceptions. Firstly, identify and acknowledge a Klesha when it comes into your mind. This process of reflection encourages self awareness, self understanding and self knowledge. You begin to discover why you developed particular Kleshas and how they are creating suffering in your life today. Self awareness is best developed through your yoga practice which should consist of both an asana and meditation.
Yoga is much more than a physical exercise, it requires the mind, body and breath to work together in harmony. When this is achieved the practitioner experiences clarity of mind or in simpler terms focus. The yogic journey is made up of 8 stages, known in yoga as the 8 limbs of yoga. The 8 limbs of yoga are quite comprehensive and provide the practitioner with a framework of how they can best interact with themselves and the world around them, in order to cultivate mental clarity. Each of the 8 limbs contains sub-categories which provide more in-depth explanations of how to achieve this. The eight limbs are:
1. Yama: How we interact with the world around us.
2. Niyama: How we interact with ourselves.
3. Asanas: Postures.
4. Pranayama: Breathing exercises.
5. Pratyahara: Control of the senses.
6. Dharana: Concentration.
7. Dhyana: Continuous concentrated communication
8. Samadhi: Complete union.
Currently, Western society primarily focuses on asanas, which is only one of the eight limbs of yoga. This reinforces the perception that yoga is a physical exercise rather than a mental one and as a result many people are not receiving the full benefits of their yoga practice. If you are interested in learning about the 8 limbs of yoga as well as the different paths to achieving yoga I recommend you read the book “The Heart of Yoga” written by T. K. V. Desikachar. In addition I also recommend watching the DVD "Yoga Unvieled."
May the divinity in me, shine to the divinity in you!