The Yoga Sutra warns us about nine obstacles to our practice, called the “antaraya.” These will arise in our Yin Yoga practice just as they will in any yoga practice. These nine distractions of our consciousness [1] are:

  1. Illness – vyadi
  2. Languor – styana (or mental stagnation)
  3. Doubt – samshaya
  4. Heedlessness – pramada (or lack of foresight)
  5. Sloth – alasya (fatigue)
  6. Dissipation – avirati (or overindulging)
  7. False views – bhrantidarshana (or illusions)
  8. Lack of perseverance – alabdhabhumikatva and,
  9. Instability or regression – anavasthitatva

If one is not healthy, strong, and dedicated, there will be no success in yoga. Although the Yoga Sutra spends very little time talking about asanas and physical practices, it is obviously essential that the body be strong enough to support the practice.

The Ways around the Obstacles

Chanting, or merely contemplating the sacred syllable Om, is one method to vanquish the nine obstacles. This is something that can be easily incorporated into the Yin Yoga practice. During the long durations of the postures, listen to the sound of the universe: Om. Hear the sound in your head, feel its vibration in your body.

Other ways around the obstacles include four additional practices: [2]

  1. Friendliness – maitri
  2. Compassion – karuna
  3. Gladness – mudita
  4. Equanimity – upeksanam

Equanimity is explained in the sutra as the state of being equally moved (or unmoved) by people who are in pain or happy, or by people who deserve merit or are unmeritorious. Jesus taught us that everyone loves her family and friends – love your enemies too. That is true equanimity, true equality.

Two other suggestions made in the Yoga Sutra for strengthening our practice are sraddha and virya: faith and energy. Faith is the best cure for doubt; energy is the best cure for sloth or languor. Also, smrti is recommended; memory – reminding ourselves of times when we were successful in the past – is excellent motivation to continue to work hard. Remembering solutions from our study, or other times in our life when we overcame obstacles, are also functions of memory.

  1. — Also called the citta vikshepa.
  2. — We will see later that these four practices are also highly recommended in Buddhism.