The inner obstacles that disperse the mind are: sickness, mental inertia, doubt, haste, apathy, intemperance, error in judgment of oneself, lack of perseverance, and the inability to stay at a level once reached.
— YSP I:30 Bouanchaud translation
In this thread, Pantanjali hands us quite a laundry list of obstacles that interfere with our obtaining the state of yoga: disease, doubt, illusion, inability to understand, laziness, gratification of the senses, slipping from progress and a scattered mind are all impediments (to attaining the state of Yoga).
Good grief, is there such a thing as a yoga practitioner who has NOT dealt with these matters? Certainly I have encountered all at one time or the other and many of them simultaneously.
There’s two ways to approach any obstacle in the road. One is to throw one’s hands up in the air and say “That’s it – I can’t go any further because my way is blocked by (fill in the blank).” Illness is something that makes it easy for someone to give up their practice. Energy is low, the body (and mind) are in pain. It seems pointless and without progress. Why bother with this yoga stuff anyway?
The alternative approach to any obstacle is to take stock of the situation and if you can’t go through it, figure out the way around it, over it or under it. If illness is the obstacle I’m facing, for example, then perhaps the efforts of practice are best served by concentrating on healing. If the body needs sleep and rest, then perhaps I should not set my alarm for early morning hour practices and let the body sleep. Once the body has healed, then I can continue on my journey. The obstacle has been cleared.
The upcoming sutras talk about tools we have as yogis to clear the way but in the meanwhile, we have this overwhelming list of obstructions. I suppose if one lets it, it could be discouraging. Personally, I take it as a very positive thing. To me, who has suffered from just about the entire list, it reminds me that I’m in august company. I’m not the only person in history who has been too tired, too sick, too discouraged to find my way to the mat. I’m not the first person who got lazy about practice.
And like you, I find some degree of comfort in this sutra. I liked how you put it. “There is lots of room for practicing trust and faith here.” So true. Yoga is an act of faith. In spite of the obstacles, many and varied as they are, yogis all over the world and throughout time have dealt with them by squaring their shoulders, putting their feet on the mat, spine rising straight and long, tucking the chin in slightly and breathing. In that single act, something magical happens to the illness, and the boredom, and the lethargy and the doubt. Yoga becomes a rebellious act of liberation from what is to what can be.