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 them.

The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, one of the most authoritative texts on Hatha Yoga, lists the following six things as obstacles to Yoga:

  • Overeating
  • Heavy physical labor
  • Too much talking
  • Observances of severe vows
  • Mixing with common people
  • Unsteadiness

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.

  • Diseases
  • Dullness
  • Doubts
  • Negligence
  • Laziness
  • Craving for material objects
  • Wrong perception
  • Failing to attain stages of the practice
  • Instability

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 (seriously). 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 rejuvenate itself.

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 :-)

Bipin Joshi is an independent software consultant, trainer, author, yoga mentor, and meditation teacher with over 24 years of experience in classical form of Yoga. He is an internationally published author and has authored or co-authored more than twelve books on .NET technologies. He has been awarded as a Most Valuable Professional by Microsoft. He has also written a few Marathi books including Devachya Davya Hati and Natha Sankentincha Danshu. Having embraced the Yoga way of life he also teaches Ajapa Yoga to selected individuals.

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Posted On : 29 June 2006

Tags : Yoga Patanjali Raja Yoga Ashtanga Yoga