Do you ever have those days where you are like “wow, this day has been freaking awesome!” Then you ride such a joyous natural high throughout the day hoping you can hold onto this epic feeling forever? To then wake up the next day feeling dull and wondering “what the hell is different between today and yesterday?” You know there is something but you can't quite figure out why you are experiencing such a dramatic internal ebb and flow of emotions… does this ever happen to you because it certainly happens to me.
For example, yesterday I was so amped in the morning to get on my mat that I did a near two hour practice without noticing the time. I was nearly late to a breakfast date with my Dad because I was so absorbed in my practice. However, this morning when I got to my mat, I found I was tired and unmotivated but persevered because I knew it would help improve the state of my mind and my body.
These fluctuating emotions are obstacles that emerge throughout my life and sometimes I am forced to face them first thing in the morning during my yoga practice. I look at these obstacles and react differently depending on the day. Some days I am like “come at me, I am ready to conquer,” other days it's an even match as I battle against my own self, rarely do I let the defeat sink in and swallow me - I try and stand my ground and fight.
According to the Yoga Sutras (our buddy, Patanjali again), there are nine obstacles that can cloud the mind and the body. They are: illness, mental stagnation, doubts, lack of foresight, fatigue, overindulgence, illusions about one’s true state of mind, lack of perseverance and regression. All of these adequately describe how it feels to be stuck, scared, experience dysphoria of the mind/body, give up, or feel as if you have taken a step backwards.
All of these obstacles hinder progress: opposing improvement, health, and growth inwards. Hence why these obstacles can be so powerful in strength and range. Depending on the person, situation or day they can range from minor pot holes in the road to a massive tree‘s blocking your ability to cross the road. These obstacles may reveal themselves while on the mat or they may present themselves throughout the day.
I know at one point or another I have combated all nine of these obstacles. Off the top of my head they have ranged from “my sinus infection feels as if its eating my brain,” to the “I am stuck in quicksand and don't think I can get out” to the “I am crazy for quitting for my secure job to try something new and that I’m passionate about,” to the “I am exhausted but must continue attitude” to the “I ate way too many Oreo’s Cookies N Cream last night,” to the “I can’t do this, I am too weak,” to the “I think I am fat, wait no, wait yes, wait no, yep I am, destructive body dysmorphia ‘game,‘” to the “every time I climb this scramble to get closer to the top, the scree (lose rock) pulls back down another step, at this rate will I ever see the top?” Just to name a few from my past. Then I realize I have too many synapses firing and can’t even keep up with my own demented thought processes.
Asana and meditation help me combat my obstacles. I realize not everyone likes hatha/vinyasa yoga or knows strategies to meditate so this might not be your solution. However, if you are interested in learning let’s have a chat. You need to find your “thing” this could be any physical or mental task that requires directed focus; providing you with the opportunity to “zen”out. Side note: Zen is a traditional Chinese Buddhist word that is the value of meditation/intuition; the comparison in Yogic philosophy is Dhyana (stems from the 8 limbs of yoga).
What I have learned is that by calming the mind through my yoga practice (asana, pranayama, meditation), I can direct the mind and look inwards. By quieting the mind allows me to feel deeply and either let whatever was bugging me go or learn why certain feelings or situations invoke such a heightened response so I can address them properly.
Obstacles; we all have them, they are these little inner monsters that try to destroy us. They are mean, unkind and unfair; however, they are a part of us. So that means we all need to learn how to face them, break through them and/or let go and move forward.