This section is only 4 sutras long, but don’t let that deceive you! There is so much to discuss! This section focuses on the obstacles and symptoms of the obstacles that hinder us from achieving and maintaining a clear state of mind. In order to best prepare yourself for understanding how sutras 1.30-1.33 are applied, please re-read the post on 1.24-1.29.
Patanjali explains how to experience self-realization and then goes on to say that of course there will be many obstacles in the way that will make the individual process more challenging.
Sutra 1.30 explains that there are 9 obstacles, which can also be described as distractions. These 9 obstacles have a counter balance to them which I will add in parenthesis next to each obstacle. Knowing how to counter balance each obstacle really helps me to understand the meaning of each obstacle and what can be done to overcome each.
1) Sickness or disease (Health/Ayurveda)
2) Dullness (Goals)
3) Doubt (Faith)
4) Carelessness (Humility)
5) Laziness (Enthusiasm)
6) Sensuality or over consumption (Contentment)
7) False Teachers (Cross referencing)
8) Losing focus (Stamina)
9) Regression or inability to stay at the goal (Hope)
Sutra 1.31 goes deeper to explain that these obstacles have symptoms that we experience. These are the 4 symptoms:
1) Pain and misery (Clarity)
2) Despair (Hope)
3) Disturbed body (Steadiness)
4) Unsteady breath (Pranayama)
These symptoms are kept at bay with “proper conditioning like right diet, exercise and proper rest.” We discussed that these symptoms, though seemingly all negative, are not always avoidable. Sometimes these symptoms can even be enjoyable! Take the breath or symptom #4 for example. How many occurrences can you think of where your breath changes but it is for a good reason (maybe at a scary theme park or during intimacy for example)? Another one is symptom #3. Trembling is considered disturbance of the body. How often do you find yourself trembling in your yoga practice because you are at your sweet and steady place? These are all things to be considered.
Sutra 1.32 explains the best way to overcome these obstacles; one pointed concentration or in other words, a goal! The goal we use as an example of this is wanting to sing publicly. Have perseverance and concentrate on the steps you need to take to singing in public. Believe in yourself with unwavering faith and stay true to your vision. It makes no sense to focus on one thing to then give up too soon. “The reason why you want to have one-pointedness concentration is to make the mind clear so that you can transcend it.”
How do you have one-pointedness concentration you ask? Patanjali gives 7 different ways that you can use. Patanjali came up with these methods so that there would be something for everyone. You can explore each method until you find the one that suits you and your style.