Antaraya’s are the obstacles are what will stop us from reaching Samadhi which is the whole point of Yoga and meditation according to the ancient Rishis.
Well, I quite like this quote from the truly wonderful Paramahamsa Yogananda ‘A blissful super consciousness state in which a yogi perceives the identity of the individualized Soul and Cosmic Spirit.” Thank you, Wikipedia
And although they are all what will stop you from reaching this great state of expansion and bliss, I think they are also relevant to everyday life too.
Illness, doubt, impatience, distractions and loss of confidence are obstacles that we all face throughout our lives. We seek help in therapy, long discussions with friends and self-help books and we try to block them out with shopping, drinking or other feel-good activities.
But rarely do we find the true nature of the issues or even more rarely do we find peace.
Yoga Sutras are a way of trying to find the answers. They provide a road map to understand and work with these obstacles.
Patanjali says there are eight Antarayas (obstacles) that we need to overcome if we want to find clarity.
And these obstacles are still what we come up against in our modern Western world.
Patanjali describes the symptoms of these states, which are again are pretty common today.
Hand up if you have any of these!
Thousands of years later and we are still trying to work it all out!
But luckily he gives us suggestions to overcome them. Om Guru!
Pranayama my old friend!
Pranayama is a practice of controlling the breath. It has become much more common thanks to the popularity of yoga.
Some of Pranayama’s benefits are-
- it is calming
- helps to maintain focus
- create clarity
No surprise why it’s on the list!
Related posts –
Being mindful of our senses
Being mindful is another Eastern tradition that has taken off in The West.
Patanjali says that we can use our senses to overcome our distractions and to maintain the focus that we need.
By investigating our senses instead of letting them control us we can find peace with ourselves and our world.
We become more in tune with how what we see, hear, taste and touch affect our physical and mental reality.
How do I do that?
- Sit with what you are feeling
- see how you react to certain images, sounds, tastes, smells
- explore your feelings.
If we are trying to find clarity in our life then we need to pay attention.
This is Patanjali’s next suggestion for overcoming the obstacles.
Asking questions such as-
- why are we here?
- what is life all about?
Questioning life can help us to focus on the bigger picture. They give you perspective and insight. But you need to stop and go within to do this.
Do you see a pattern emerging?
By contemplating life’s mysteries you are less inclined to focus on the little details of life.
When you are able to see the bigger picture, you gain a higher perspective and start to see how insignificant a lot of your problems really are.
Patanjali does not expect you to do this all alone.
A teacher or mentor is another person who can help you. They may not have had the same experiences as you, but can help you to recognize when you are struggling. And they can give you tools and encouragement needed. They are there to support you so that you don’t let yourself become defeated and give up.
Nowadays other methods of guidance are available such as books, workshops, self-help programs, online education and of course healers.
Investigate your dreams
The next suggestion asks us to look into our subconscious for answers.
Just like Freud, Patanjali instructs us to consider the messages of our dreams and see, if, through their interpretation, we can find some way of overcoming our problems.
He does not give any suggestions as to what the images or situations we encounter in our sleep mean. But he does suggest that a lot of clarity can be gained by trying to understand what your dreams are trying to tell you.
Meditation is another way that Patanjali suggests we use our subconscious to gain relief from Antaryas.
He says that by focusing our minds on something we can become more peaceful.
A lot of people think that meditation requires sitting in an absolute state of silence like the Zen Masters practice. But that is not the only way to focus the mind and reach a state of meditation. Using a mantra, visualisation or guided techniques work just as well and are a lot easier.
When the mind is quiet and the chatter of our thoughts subsides clarity is given a chance to be heard.
This is especially helpful when we are stressed, overwhelmed or feel like we can’t go on.
We do not need to be studying philosophy or following a spiritual path to see how these obstacles effect or physical and mental well-being. And we don’t have to be a Zen monk or cave-dwelling yogi to be able to implement the suggestions Patanjali suggests in the Sutras.
Life is full of tests and challenges and it is up to us how we handle them.
By becoming more aware of who we are, by taking time out to become more in touch with ourselves and our place in the world and getting help when we need it life can be a lot easier.
Take time out for you, make yourself a priority, take control of your life instead of letting life control you.
Once you start implementing these practices in your life you will still have obstacles to overcome but they will seem far less ominous and far more manageable.