Kleshas – the obstacles to our spiritual journey

By Milda Urban, Summersalt Yoga founder

As many yoga practitioners know – the final gift of one’s yoga and life’s journey is bliss (also known as Samadhi, moksha, enlightenment).

It is important to note that when I say yoga journey I do not mean only the physical asana practice, but the all-encompassing yoga practice.

And this yoga (and life!) journey is not always easy – anyone can attest to that. There are many micro and macro issues coming up, we get distracted, disengaged, demotivated or sometimes might feel as if things are just not moving forward. We find many excuses, distractions, and reasons to pause or stop the journey altogether.

We’re not the only ones and these obstacles have existed since the beginning of the yoga practice altogether. In Yoga Sutras Pantajali has identified 5 main obstacles to yoga (the spiritual journey) that are named Kleshas:

The 5 Kleshas

Avidya – delusion, ignorance

Asmita – ego or the conscious personality

Raga – attachment to pleasurable things

Dvesha – aversion, repulsion to painful things

Abhinivesha – the fear of death

Avidya – it is the inability to see things for what they are which includes not seeing the true self. Not seeing what we are at our core, not noticing the light, awareness, and spirituality in ourselves. This might come because of our upbringing, our “real world” experiences and focus on various things. As a result, we might feel like there’s lack of purpose like we can’t figure out what our values are or what we like/don’t like.

What to do? To overcome this obstacle, we can work on overcoming this by devoting more time spent on own, with our closest friends and family, studying yoga practices and reading more books, disconnecting from the digital world and actively trying to figure out what your values are.

Asmita – EGO is the buzzword of our time and it gets a bad rap as if it’s not necessary. However, it is important for us to function in the world and in society. The issue arises once we become attached to it. We start identifying ourselves only with the ego, with the manufactured personality (this is who I am or this is not who I am), our habits when in reality we are much more than that. Many of those traits we ascribe to ourselves are only a mask and more often than not they are not true anymore or not true at all.

Ego is also the “doer” (we often are human doings and not human beings), so we identify only with the actions, goals, achievements and if those do not work out the way we “want to” we find ourselves in a crisis.

What to do? Practicing stillness. Practicing the not doing, breaking habits and noticing if they are actually that important. If we think people don’t change – take a look at yourself 5 or 10 years ago. Most likely we will see that we’re not the same. It is also important to ask ourselves– do we need more goals and will they bring joy or are we okay by just being as we are?

Raga and Dvesha. These two are connected. We love what makes us feel good and try to avoid what brings us discomfort and pain. We avoid tasks we don’t like, situations that bring us stress (dealing with family or work anyone?). We start identifying with things that bring us pleasure and once we inevitably lose them it brings us discomfort. When experiencing discomfort, we then go and seek other pleasurable distractions. And so goes the cycle.

Life is full of disappointments, irritations, annoyances, but what if we adjust or completely shed expectations? What if we do not focus, attach or overthink “how that does make me feel?” and just accept things as they are? What if we embrace the inevitable discomfort and find growth in it?

Being okay with everything that’s happening is contentment (santosha) and recognizing that “this is too temporary” is a great mantra to follow.

What to do? Trying to be in the moment as much as possible is key. When things go sideways (and they will) – we should recognize and accept them and remember that this is temporary. Let’s fully immerse ourselves in the experiences without having expectations on how they should be.

Abhinivesha – the fear of death is in all of us. Some have more of it, some less, but it exists. It is important to recognize that death is a part of life and to not let that fear cripple us during the time that we have here. Excessively clinging to the youthful appearances, avoiding experiences in order to “stay safe”, obsessing and complaining about the passing years are just hindrance of living fulfilled life.

What to do? It is always great to read philosophical books about life, spirituality, try to find joy in everything we do, contemplate death philosophically and try to identify what is actually that we fear. For many people that’s the disconnection from others and the world.  So let’s make sure we connect now.



By | 2019-05-09T07:58:28+00:00 May 9th, 2019|Yoga practice|