Lesson 4 - Obstacles in Yoga and how to overcome them

In Lesson 3 you learnt that consistent practice and detachment are very important for self-realization. There are several obstacles that affect our practice and hinder our spiritual progress. That is why it is very important to understand what these obstacles are and how to over come them.

The obstacles for spiritual progress are explained below:


This is a very important factor that people miss out. 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. Yoga 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 the God. Keep in mind that "amount of food taken" and "amount of energy spend" must have a proper balance.

Hard work

In order to perform hard physical labor we need to spend lot of energy. A Yogi should focus on spending his energy only in his sadhana. A tired body and mind can not remain concentrated resulting in poor quality of practice. Of course one must perform daily duties.

Talking too much

We come across many people who are talkative or rather talk too much. Talking too much not only wastes energy but also causes mind to scatter. A sadhaka must avoid discussing gossips and useless chatting. Practicing Mauna Vrata is helpful in stabilizing your mind.

Mixing with common people

A sadhaka should avoid mixing with common people. It is often said - "Do not engage with fools They first drag you at their level and then beat you with their experience." The same thing happens when you mix with ordinary people. Unknowingly they infect you with their worldly desires and expectations. Keeping that in mind one should give more emphasis on Satsanga.

Observances of severe vows

A sadhaka needs to observe strict disciplines in daily life. However, he should not follow severe vows such as fasting and bathing with ice cold water. By torturing one's own body one can not become Yogi. A careful judgment is necessary while applying any such rules.


A common man possesses very unsteady body and mind. In order to succeed in Yoga one must have steady body (Kaya Sthairyam) and one pointed mind. Yogi should be able to sit in place for hours. That's why Hatha Yoga gives so much emphasis on Asanas. One must also learn to control the mind that is otherwise unsteady like wind.


A body weakened by diseases can not perform higher spiritual practices. The quality of Yoga postures, Pranayama and Meditation degrades when your body is suffering from some illness. Diseases weaken the Prana in the body and progress can not be achieved.

Mental Dullness

Mental dullness is another big obstacle. If your mind is in dull you can not concentrate on what you are doing. This dullness often starts creeping when you sit for Meditation and then you feel bored.


People often doubt about their path and progress. They always keep thinking whether they are on right path and progressing. Such doubt will take you nowhere. You must have complete faith on your path and practices you are following.


It is often said that to err is human. However, one should be very carefully on the path of self-realization. Your mistakes in following the spiritual rules and guidelines can delay your progress. Mistakes in technical aspects of the practice can even cause injury or harm. So mistakes should be avoided with great care.


Laziness is a big enemy of any Yoga aspirant. A mind full of laziness can not make any progress. Often people start Yoga with a lot of enthusiasm but after few weeks give up because of laziness. Getting up early in the morning, doing Asanas, Pranayama, Meditation regularly all these things sound boring after laziness possesses your mind body equipment.


Craving for material pleasures hinders your spiritual progress. If day and night you are thinking about wealth and luxuries then where is the time for self-realization? Craving for material objects also weakens your mind power because it makes you slave of the sense organs.


After achieving some progress many people start feeling that they need not practice anymore. They imagine themselves very near to the destination. They feel that Maya can no longer affect them. Some even feel attaining self-realization just by reading books! All these are misconceptions.

Inability to maintain stages of practice

By consistent practice one reaches certain stage but then suddenly progress halts. Mind can't  achieve the same level of concentration. Then one starts thinking that there must be something wrong. This is very critical stage. Yoga practice always goes through ups and downs. One must continue the practice with the same zeal and enthusiasm as before.

Lack of concentration

Mind runs with the speed of light. You never know when it wanders away from its goal. It is very difficult to control it. Focusing mind on your practice is the key part of self-realization. Lack of concentration makes your practice mechanical.

Above obstacles generate symptoms of mental distraction such as pain, depression, shaking of the body during practice and unsteady breath. All the above obstacles must be overcome with constant efforts. You must try to calm your mind through Yogic techniques.

Often happiness and sorrow, good and bad disturbs our mind. To overcome such disturbances you must cultivate the opposite qualities. You should cultivate friendly attitude towards happiness, compassion towards sorrow, Gladness towards good and indifference towards the bad. Once you cultivate such attitude you will find that mind becomes purer day by day and finally comes under control. Practice of Pranayama and Meditation also helps to a great degree to root out these obstacles. In later lessons you will learn in details various techniques that are helpful in this regards.

To summarize this lesson:

  • Overeating, hard work, talking too much, mixing with common people, Observances of severe vows and Unsteadiness are obstacles at physical level
  • Diseases, mental dullness, doubt, mistakes, laziness, craving, misconceptions, Inability to maintain stages of practice and lack of concentration are obstacles at mental level
  • The obstacles can be removed by Yogic techniques such as Pranayama and Meditation as well as by following a correct attitude towards life

May the Peace be with you.

Bipin Joshi is an independent software consultant and trainer by profession specializing in Microsoft web development technologies. Having embraced the Yoga way of life he is also a yoga mentor, meditation teacher, and spiritual guide to his students. He is a prolific author and writes regularly about software development and yoga on his websites. He is programming, meditating, writing, and teaching for over 27 years. To read more about him go here. More details about his Kriya and Meditation online course are available here.

Posted On : 22 September 2006

Tags : Yoga Patanjali Raja Yoga Ashtanga Yoga Meditation Courses