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9 Obstacles That Interrupt Our Practice and Block Our Progress

We’ve all been there. There you are, plugging along and making progress on the job, at home or in love, and bam. Sometimes out of nowhere, you hit a roadblock that stops you dead in your tracks.

ScorpionCrop.jpgOccasionally these hurdles are external in nature, but more often than not, the obstacles in our lives are (at least partially) of our own making.

As they say, awareness is half the battle, and in the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali throws all of us truth-seekers a bone in astutely outlining nine antarayas, or common impediments to watch for during our personal practice and inner journey. The term “practice” can be applied in a broader context here, as I’ve seen these same obstacles manifest both on the mat in my body and mind, and off the mat in my relationships and work.

  1. Vyadhi: This first obstacle is often defined as illness or disease. Although vyadhi may show up most obviously in the form of a physical pain or sickness that is beyond our control, a more subtle source can derive from a consistent negativity or other unproductive mental imbalance. A lack of self-care, whether mental, emotional or physical, can lead to or perpetuate this dis-ease.

  2. Styana: When we find ourselves face to face with an apathetic approach or feeling of mental stagnation, styana is often on hand. This “so what, who cares” attitude can prevent us from taking the right and necessary action for growth, thwarting our progress and delivering a hit to productivity. Taking action despite feelings of ambivalence is key to continuing the momentum in our practice.

  3. Samshaya: This is a big one for many of us who spend entirely too much mental energy doubting ourselves and questioning our self-worth. Samshaya shows up as self-doubt or a lack of confidence in our own power and potential. Reaffirming faith in ourselves is essential to counteract this block.

  4. Pramada: This carelessness, negligence or lack of foresight inadvertently detours us from our our desired destination. Whatever the cause for unclear thinking—whether drunkenness, distraction or other diversion—a lack of mindfulness leads to pramada, taking us off track from where we intend to go.

  5. Alasya: Translated disparately as both fatigue and laziness, alasya often shows up in my life as burnout. When we burn the candle at both ends and fail to take appropriate care of ourselves, it can be difficult to even get out of bed in the morning, let alone tackle the day with the gusto needed to make magic happen. Even one simple measure of self-care, whether that be taking a few minutes to meditate, indulge in a bath or go to bed a half hour earlier, can be enough to recharge our batteries.

  6. Avirati: This obstacle presents itself when we’re overindulging or non-abstaining, often as a result of being driven by cravings or otherwise overpowered by senses and feelings. I find some of the most intense cravings in my life appear as an impulse to self-medicate, numb out or avoid an undesirable thought or feeling I’m having. At the end of the day, it helps to remember, we are not defined by our thoughts, experiences or feelings. In seeing them as passing phases and distinctly separate from our true selves, we take away their power to overwhelm us and drive our actions to excess.

  7. Bhrantidarshana: This often shows up for me as the stories I tell myself in my head. There are plenty of stories or perceptions we all have in our head about the way things are, who people are, and what we are or are not capable of. Bhrantidarshana refers to these erroneous views. Imagine traveling with an outdated GPS. By letting this misinformation and illusion guide our path, we won’t be taking the most efficient route along our path and may very likely be led significantly off course.

  8. Alabdhabhumikatva: In working toward our goals, we inevitably face situations where we feel like we’re failing, not progressing fast enough or inclined to give up altogether. Alabdhabhumikatva can rear its ugly head in these moments by showing up as a lack of perseverance or grounding. The things we want aren’t always easily obtainable, and without fortitude in the face of challenge, it can be tempting to lose our resolve and change directions as soon as the going gets tough.

  9. Anavasthitatva: For all of the in-roads we’ve made with any practice, project or person in our life, all of that can be cut short when we’re incapable of maintaining these gains. We can fall prey to anavasthitatva when instability results in regression and backward movement. Meditation can help us create space and stability and practice the single-pointed focus needed to maintain solid footing.

When I hit a hurdle in life—whether it’s battling writer’s block at my computer, dragging my feet to get on my yoga mat or meditation cushion, or stagnating in my relationships with my self or others—I can often trace the source of said stumble back to one or more of the antarayas outlined by Patanjali in sutras 1.30 to 1.32.

By better understanding the problems that plague us, we can cultivate awareness to anticipate their onset in advance and greater dexterity in circumventing them before they sidetrack us. In identifying these obstacles more clearly, we can remain resolute and persevere in the direction we’re heading in spite of distractions.

A version of this article also appeared in Wanderlust Festival’s Journal on July 10, 2014.

July 10, 2014 0 Comments

Workshop Aims at Overcoming Obstacles and Unblocking Flow

Mark your calendars for a new workshop coming in June—”From The Inside Out: Flowing Through Obstacles With Empowerment and Ease”—geared toward transcending the obstacles that show up in our practice and life as impediments to progress and growth.

Photo courtesy of Petras Barcas Photography | Flickr.com/pbarcas

Photo courtesy of Petras Barcas Photography | Flickr.com/pbarcas

Held from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, June 7 at Blissed Out Yoga in Elmhurst by myself and Omega Institute Resident Life Coach Chrystal Kubis, this workshop will teach students how to apply the insights and philosophy of yoga to overcome the inner and outer obstacles in life with less stress and more simplicity.

Through a combination of asana, meditation and discussion, students will learn essential practical applications of yogic principles and other strategic navigational tools for thriving in spite of difficulties.

We’ll explore these blockages to freedom and flow in our lives in a variety of ways, including through a discussion of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras which characterized these hurdles as the nine antarayas.

Students will leave with a greater sense of empowerment, freedom and a toolbox of peaceful-yet-powerful techniques for shifting their perspective, applying the practice of yoga off the mat, and rising above the challenges of day-to-day life.

The workshop cost is $40 in advance, or $45 at the door. Click here and select the site’s workshops tab to register and pay in advance. 

I’m thrilled to be co-hosting this workshop with Chrystal Kubis. A native of the western suburbs of Chicago and now based in Sarasota, FL, Chrystal has led trainings on personal transformation and empowerment across the country. She’s been honored to serve the last four years as faculty and resident life coach for Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY.

Along with benefiting from the many lessons of life, Chrystal has a degree in Holistic Wellness from the Southwest Institute of Healing Arts, and holds certifications as a Life Coach, Massage Therapist, Yoga Instructor, Qi Gong Healer, and Reiki Master. She is passionate about working with people who are hungry for shifts and ready to transform both challenges and emotions into strength, flow, wild yes’s and inner freedom.

May 14, 2014 0 Comments

Weekend Yoga Retreat Set for May 30 to June 1 at Stonehouse Farm

My dear friend and fellow teacher, Cynthia Woods, and I will be hosting a weekend workshop—”Your Mat As A Mirror: Cultivating Self-Awareness and Self-Study Through Yoga”—from Friday, May 30 to Sunday, June 1 at Stonehouse Farm west of Chicago in DeKalb County.

Photo courtesy of Petras Barcas Photography | Flickr.com/pbarcas

Photo courtesy of Petras Barcas Photography | Flickr.com/pbarcas

Many students begin yoga for purely physical purposes, but it doesn’t take long to realize that there’s so much more to the practice than its myriad health benefits.

You’ve probably begun to notice the effects of yoga carrying off of your mat and spilling over into other sectors of your life. These changes may initially show up as increased patience or presence throughout your day, while in interactions at work or during time spent with loved ones. So, why is this happening and where do you go from here in the process?

Using nature as our backdrop, we’ll introduce some of the basic and foundational philosophies behind the ancient tradition of yoga (such as segments of the Sutras including the yamas and niyamas) as a way to explore how yoga transcends the physical and can be seen in all aspects of life beyond the mat as well.

Through vinyasa and restorative asana, we’ll use physical practice to observe habits in our bodies and minds that show up elsewhere in our lives. We’ll dig deeper into these patterns through a variety of meditation practices, both seated in stillness as well as incorporating walks in the woods and star-gazing at night.

By cultivating this greater self-awareness, we can begin making conscious shifts to become more authentic and aligned in our reactions and interactions in everyday life.

Photo courtesy of Petras Barcas Photography | Flickr.com/pbarcas

Photo courtesy of Petras Barcas Photography | Flickr.com/pbarcas

Whether you’re a beginning student or advanced practitioner, this workshop will bring more mindfulness to your practice and awareness to ways you can apply the same principles and insights of yoga off of your mat in your day-to-day life.

The workshop starts at $200 for the full weekend with Cynthia and me at Stonehouse Farm, including camping and food (with plentiful vegetarian, gluten-free and dairy-free options). Other accommodations, including small and large yurts, are available for a slightly higher rate.

Opened last year about 70 miles west of Chicago, Stonehouse Farm is a new 40-acre yoga retreat center complete with large pond for swimming, wooded paths for walking, and open space with camping and yurts for sleeping.

For more information about the weekend workshop or to register, click here to visit the event page on Stonehouse Farm’s website.

April 6, 2014 0 Comments