As my first week wore on, I was really looking forward to Sunday and the first conference I would get to attend while in Mysore. As Sharath sat down on the stage to speak, the buzzing conversation in the shala fizzled expectedly. We were ready to hear what advice and insights he had this time.
But his delightful son, Sambav had other ideas. I’m not sure how old he is, because he’s pretty small, but it’s clear that he absolutely idolizes his father and relishes in the attention he gets from being adorable. For at least ten minutes Sharath sat patiently while the little one literally climbed all over him. Sharath laughed, and funnily enough, eventually began to talk about the obstacles we face in our yoga practice.
According to Sharath there are several obstacles or distractions (no, adorable children aren't officially one of them ;) in fact, family is something that this tradition really values) we face as we embark on our yogic path:
Sickness is the first obstacle to tackle, and the reason we begin our yogic journey by doing asanas. Asanas heal the body and make it sable and strong so that we can sit comfortably and concentrate.
Doubt is an extremely important factor in our practice. If we constantly doubt the practice or the teacher, the teachings can never really sink in. Any yogic journey requires surrender. Practice is dangerous if done with misgiving and disbelief.
Carelessness leads to injury and is dangerous for the practice, Sharath warned. If we lack attention it’s possible that the body will be here doing asana, and the mind will be somewhere else. This is when injury occurs most often. Beware!
Sharath didn’t elaborate too much about sloth or laziness, which is probably the most difficult obstacle for me. “Only lazy people cannot practice yoga,” as Guruji said…so get off your couch and get to practice!
Lack of Determination
Your determination must be stronger than your distractions. Yoga practitioners need a lot of determination, especially because this is a lifelong practice, which can often feel slow and long. It becomes difficult to concentrate when we see distractions, but determination gets us through the years.
One topic I hear Sharath talk about quite often is confusion. It’s a big problem with modern yoga practitioners, he says. Because yoga is becoming more and more commercial and body-centric there are a plethora of teachers with their own rules, style, system and philosophy. Too many teachers and options confuse students. It’s important that we know where our practice comes from and should stick to one method. He quoted Guruji: “Two gurus, one student is dead!”
Improper Grounding in the Practice
The foundations of our yoga practice are really the most important part. The basics, the introduction, the initiation. If these are strong, everything else can safely grow from there. We should want to become a student first, and then perhaps...once the foundation is strong and we are grounded, a teacher.
Lack of Concentration
Modern technology is distracting. Facebook, blogs (!), twitter, and ipads distract us. It’s not that they’re evil; they should just be a secondary, occasional concern. Sharath said we have to work to develop concentration and that focus improves our ability to take knowledge in and learn daily.
Being here in India, studying yoga at the source makes these distractions easier for me to deal with. I’m here to focus and devote myself to the practice for a period of time. It’s when I get back into the bustle of daily life that I really need to cultivate the determination, focus, motivation and concentration to support my practice. On another note...if anyone has the Sanskrit names for these obstacles, I'd really like to know them and add them to the post. He mentioned all of them but I wasn't quick enough!