obstacles in yoga

Antarayas: The 13 Obstacles of Yoga

Published on February 16, 2005

The path of yoga can be long and hard, filled with obstacles, pitfalls, and detours. Luckily, yogic philosophy provides a roadside assistance program to aid you when you become stuck. The yogis who have traveled the path before us have left us a troubleshooting guide called Antarayas, or the 13 obstacles of yoga. Knowing and studying these Antarayas will give you more skill, compassion, and understanding as you progress in your yoga practice.

The 13 Obstacles of Yoga

Patanjali describes the 13 obstacles of yoga by breaking them down into two sets. The first set of Antarayas are the primary and most common obstacles one will encounter in yoga. The second set contains four minor obstacles, several of which are very uncommon.

The nine main obstacles of yoga are:

  1. Vyadhi – Illness, disease, physical or mental. It is difficult to do yoga if you are physically sick. Thus it is important to lead a healthy lifestyle for the prevention of illness and promotion of optimal health.
  2. Styana – Apathy, disinclination towards performing one’s kartavya or duty. By procrastinating, we avoid our practice and create excuses for not being on the path and doing the work.
  3. Sanshaya – doubting one’s capability or the result of yoga. We can only come to know Reality, declares the Brihad-Âranyaka-Upanishad (4.4.23), when we are free from doubt. It is important to cultivate faith in oneself as well as the yogic path.
  4. Pramada – Heedlessness, carelessness, a lack of persistence. Yoga is both a science and art and approaching it without skill, care, respect, and devotion will create erratic and possible negative results.
  5. Alasya – Sloth, inertia of mind or body due to dominance of the tamasic element. Yoga requires discipline, zeal, and tapas (will-power) to succeed on its path. Laziness will prevent you from attaining your highest potential.
  6. Avirati – Overindulgence, attachment to pleasurable things. We must learn to “let go” of our attachments to desire and physical objects if we are to make progress in yoga.
  7. Bhrantidarshan – False vision, a premature sense of certainty. The development of a false notion about the practice of yoga and its outcome can not only lead one off the path of yoga, but also create harm and disappointment.
  8. Alabdha-bhumikatva – Non-attainment of the next yogic stage or accomplishment. This happens due to faulty or poor practice and creates a feeling of being “stuck” and leads to discouragement.
  9. Anawasthitatwa – Instability, non-permanence of a yogic accomplishment or stage. Not able to maintain an attained stage can be a real drag. This again can be a result of faulty or poor practice.

When any of these primary obstacles are encountered, four minor obstacles may appear according to specific circumstances.

The four minor obstacles are:

  1. Duhkha – Pain or sorrow.
  2. Daurmanasya – depression, pain caused by non-fulfillment of desires.
  3. Angamejayatwa – the shivering of parts of the body.
  4. Shvâsa-prashvâsa – disturbances in kumbhaka or breath retention causing the irregular breathing pattern that comes with mental agitation.

Overcoming the obstacles of Yoga

You will need to be able to remove or overcome all of these obstacles at will to be successful in yoga. They may appear at any time, and if not conquered during their first appearance, they are most likely to return until you learn how to overcome them.

The key to the removal of any and all of the above obstacles is the cultivation of the one-pointedness of mind. These obstacles will naturally pass with time unless we allow ourselves to become entangled and bogged down in them. By focusing all of your attention on a single object the obstacles dissolve and begin to lose their importance and power.

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Improve your yoga practice

There are many techniques and tools that you can explore to help you deepen and become more proficient in your yoga practice. While many of these methods are simple and straightforward, others might be more challenging for you to incorporate.

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10 responses to “Antarayas: The 13 Obstacles of Yoga”

  1. Beena Avatar

    I am not a constant followr of yoga, though I want to practice it more often, my big city life just doesn’t let me do it often. Surely, as someone might say that it is just an excuse, but what I want to say is there was a time when I was out of work, and I started practicing yoga three times per week regurlarly during four months, I really felt those feelings described above, there was depression, shivering, sometimes agitation, disappoitment as well. This is a good article at that time I thought that yoga isn’t helping me it is just making me more depressed at times. Now I understand that it was just an obstacle. Thank you

  2. tilda Avatar

    I have found that if I work during the night and sleep durning the day I have found myself in some stated above. I have over come some of the obstacles
    when I have been practicing yoga every morning to greet the sun and I have found to be more relaxed for the rest of my day. I am still in the learning process. and continue to learn. thank you

  3. zane Avatar

    I would love to do yoga and I have been putting it off from one excuse to another but really these excuses are man made and man can only unmake it. The only problem I see is i really can’t see or feel any persistence from within or from outside, I need help if there is any. Thanks in advance.

  4. keagan Avatar

    I decided recently to give Yoga a try and as I continue to do research, I realize that it is going to be a tough road. I definitely have more than a few obstacles to dissolve. I’m trying to quit smoking and need to find another avenue to get my mind off smoking, so I figured Yoga would help me do that. I haven’t started a routine yet because I need to figure out which road I’ll take. Even though this post is from 2005, I still find the information useful. Thanks.


  5. life Avatar

    I am new to yoga and meditation and I know that when I go to a class whether I am not in a good physical or mental place I come out feeling a sense of release of all the negativities of the day. I wish I could get there every day and I now know it will take time and patience.I now know I can
    achieve that feeling if I dedicate my self to a little bit of self discipline.
    Great article !

  6. chene48 Avatar

    I find myself needing a cleansing of poor choices, that I’ve made to go foward. I look forward to the changes in my life.

  7. jane_ Avatar

    In my country, there are no places where i can do yoga. i wish there was one.

  8. atvluvr1 Avatar

    I lost my deep yoga practice due to an overindulgence and because I became disheartened at how many new yoga instructors popped up in my small town; I felt it had become a fitness fad. I have since kicked my habit, but it has been two years since I have been a teacher. I am slowly picking up the pieces and starting over, but I deeply regret that I had ever let it go.

  9. Sury Nama Avatar
    Sury Nama

    I am stuck in Alabdha-bhumikatva – Non-attainment of the next yogic stage or accomplishment. After 6 months of yoga withdrawal encouraged by a yoga friend I started in an alignment, attribute obtaining yoga and am very happy. I am re- connecting with basic poses like triangle, updog, and camel.

  10. Anita Avatar

    The reading of this article helped me a lot in my research work. Thank you so much. Over thinking is obstructing my path. I will have to overcome it in future.

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Timothy Burgin Avatar
About the author
Timothy Burgin is a Kripalu & Pranakriya trained yoga instructor living and teaching in Asheville, NC. Timothy has studied and taught many styles of yoga and has completed a 500-hour Advanced Pranakriya Yoga training. Timothy has been serving as the Executive Director of YogaBasics.com since 2000. He has authored two yoga books and has written over 500 articles on the practice and philosophy of yoga. Timothy is also the creator of Japa Mala Beads and has been designing and importing mala beads since 2004.
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