As I continue my journey deep into the first book of the Yoga Sutras, I am amazed that a 5,000-year-old text is so exactly relevant to my life today. There is a group of sutras, in the middle of the first book, that talk about the distractions that arise in life that become obstacles to happiness. In fact, Patanjali names nine in all. And on top of those nine, he says they are accompanied by four symptoms that are indications of these deeper underlying issues. Wait until you read the list.
The obstacles are these: disease, dullness, doubt, carelessness, laziness, craving, false perception, failure to gain ground in the practice of yoga, and the inability to maintain progress made.
The symptoms that accompany them are: pain, sadness, unsteadiness, and irregular breathing.
It seems like the human condition has not changed in thousands of years since these lists incorporate pretty much everything that a person can go through in life.
As I look back on the years I have been practicing yoga, I see how much the physical asana practice has helped me identify when I have been experiencing the symptoms. Every time I take rest after asana practice, I feel a deep sense of relief. Pain I was in, either mental or physical, seems to vanish, even if only for a little while. Sadness I was experiencing before class is just not as sad. Sometimes I didn’t even know I was in pain or that I was sad, but I just felt better afterwards. If I felt shaky in any pose, I know that it was, and still is, a lesson in keeping me steady off the mat. And as for my breath, well, after spending an hour and a half focused on the regular, rhythmic practice of ujjayi, I can’t help but feel less stress and more calm.
Through these physical practices, and working on the underlying symptoms, I have been able to root out major distractions in my life. I am able to see the obstacles more clearly and figure out ways to fix my life to address them.
Now that you have the list, can you see it too?
–Lisa Dawn Angerame, to read more of Lisa Dawn’s writing, go to lisasprojectvegan.com.