in depth


Excuses Excuses

Defining Your Blocks

Believe it or not, people have been having trouble doing yoga for hundreds of years. The ancient yogis actually classified the five major obstructions to a successful yoga practice. These “Kleshas”—loosely translated as “obstacles” or more literally as “afflictions”—are considered not only to be the main blocks in a yoga practice, but also the root of all suffering. 

Patanjali first codified these obstacles to yoga in the Yoga Sutras around two thousand years ago: Ignorance, Self-Centeredness, Attachment to Pleasure, Aversion to Pain and Fear. Let’s address these last to first.

Fear – People are afraid to change. In many cases, we would often rather stick with our problems than open up to the new or unknown. But yoga presents us with new possibilities and with that, either change or stagnation must occur.

Aversion to pain – This goes along with the fear of change. Change brings growth. Growth brings pain as we lose the old self. People usually want to remain with their familiar problems rather than take what they perceive as painful steps toward growth.

Attachment to pleasure – Patanjali explains this is the same as aversion to pain. While life should indeed be pleasurable, the pleasant sensations we experience in this life can derive from a number of sources: alcohol, drugs, even food. But as we move toward yogic union, these external indulgences cease to be relevant.

Self-centeredness – To the yogi, this is the all-consuming focus on the “small self,” to the exclusion of the Higher Self and the welfare of others. It amounts to starving the spirit in order to feed the ego. It is a case of mistaken identity—perceiving God as the false idol, when God is actually within us.

Ignorance – This king of all afflictions, "avidya" (lack of knowing), is the cause of all of the other blocks. In any given moment, if we are simply ignorant of our true nature, one of the obstacles will present themselves.

My teacher Yogi Bhajan once said, “Excuses are self-abuses.”  He meant that to allow your “small self” to talk your Higher Self invites these obstructions. It becomes a slippery slope. So do your yoga. No excuses!

Mehtab Benton
Author, Gong Yoga: Healing and Enlightenment Through Sound
Proprietor, Yoga Yoga Studios


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