In the sutras, Patanjali defines nine obstacles to the yoga practice in sutra 1.30:
These obstacles are disease, inertia, doubt, heedlessness, laziness, indiscipline of the senses,
erroneous views, lack of perservance, and backsliding.
The hardest part of the practice is just getting on the mat. The mind likes to come up with plenty of reasons why not. I used to practice Asthanga quite regularly, but then I had to stop because I was experiencing major pain in my low back and hips. It took a locked SI Joint and a blown hamstring before I really listened to what my body had to say. But without that practice who was I? Thoughts would creep in that maybe I should give it up, the yoga all together, that it wasn’t for me. Deep down though, those thoughts felt false, and undermined everything I came to know aobut yoga.
I had to find my own way into a practice that worked for me. To be honest, I still struggle with the ideal of what my ego-mind would like my practice to look like, and of feeling that I am not doing enough.
My personal practice is still strong, it pays some homage to the Ashtange vinyasya practice and at heart, I am a flow junkie. My focus now is on building core strength, hip openers, upper body strengtheners, good alignment and proceeding slowly with deep seated forward bends and poses that require a lot of external rotataion. My focus is on the breath and trying to really feel the pose from inside out.
There are many poses which I took for granted, that I could easily fall into – and which now I no longer attempt. Letting go has been very difficult. I have come to realize that much of my self-woth as a teacher was clearly related to what advanced pose I could get into. It took me a few years to figure this out, that this is what makes my body happy and how attached my mind and ego had become. I am so glad that I did not give up on this practice.
My own struggles have given me a deeper appreciation and compassion for my students and to really respect the notion that this practice is more than just the asana practice or what pose can you do.
“Remember, Yoga practice is like an obstacle race; many obstructions are purposely put on the way for us to pass through. They are there to make us understand and express our own capacities. We all have the strength, but we don’t see to know it. We seem to need to be challenged and tested in order to understand our own capacities.” – Sri Swami Satchidananda, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali., p.51.