Yoga Sutras I, 30-31: Obstacles To Controlling The Mind


[B]I, 30 vyadhi styana samsaya pramada alasya avirati bhrantidarsana alabdha-bhumikatva anavasthitatva citta viksepah te antarayah

I, 31 duhkha daurmanasya angamejayatva svasa prasvasa viksepa sahbhuvah

These obstacles
to self-knowledge
disrupt and scatter the mind ?
they are
dissipation due to excess craving,
lack of the concentration
necessary to achieve
higher consciousness,
and instability.

these distractions are
and disturbed inhalation and exhalation.[/b]

M. Stiles

Iyengar divides the first set of distractions into four categories:

  1. the physical: disease, dullness (sluggishness)
  2. the mental: doubt, negligence (carelessness), laziness, sense gratification (excess craving)
  3. the intellectual: delusion
  4. the spiritual: lack of perseverance (lack of concentration), instability.
    The next set of obstacles are further classified by Iyengar as self-inflicted or caused by another or caused by fate (genetic defects) and phenomena beyond our understanding.

Sw. Satchidananda explains that the first set of obstacles are purposely placed in our way, ?..they are there to make us understand and express our own capacities. We all have that strength, but we don?t seem to know it. We seem to need to be challenged and tested in order to understand our own capacities?. (p51) However, the second set of obstacles result from our daily activities, movements, associations and diet which can be tamasic or rajasic. If our external, worldly life is sattvic, then it will help us in our spiritual journey and we will be better able to focus, concentrate and meditate.

These sutras are particularly pertinent to me at this point in my life. Prior to my recent move, I was living a fairly austere and simple lifestyle, since I had to complete a large amount of work in a short period of time. My responsibilities were limited to myself and the room that I was occupying. Since I had moved to a new city, my distractions were limited. There was my work and my spiritual practice. Now that I am reunited with my husband and my pets and am living in my own home, the distractions have multiplied immensely. Sharing a life with someone who is so in this world has been difficult to navigate, especially after such an intense period of spiritual practice. In addition, having a new and different job in a foreign country has been quite challenging…so my mind has been spinning sometimes out of control and I have been pulled in many directions. Consequently, I had lost focus and my practice has dissipated.

Slowly, things are moving in a forward direction. The practice of self-study or svadhyaya helps me to resolve doubt and uncover delusion. The practice of self-discipline helps me to counteract laziness, dullness, and aids in concentration. However, key to me becoming grounded again, was the insight that Mukunda provided us (3 March, 2007, London, SYT Workshop) that only when dharma (duty), artha (abundance) and kama (pleasure) are balanced and sattvic, then the desire for moksha (liberation) arises. Therefore, I necessarily need to meet the challenge of balancing the first three responsibilities, in order to progress spiritually.

Iyengar, B.K.S., Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. New Delhi, India: Harper Collins Publications India. 1993

Swami Satchidananda, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Buckingham, VA: Integral Yoga Publications. 2004

Stiles, M., Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Boston, MA: Red Wheel/Weiser LLC. 2002.


I can identify very much with how you describe your life Lavina.Living in the world and with people who don’t follow a similar discipline to our own, can make it more challenging to persue our own practice. Among the many obstacles listed, I can identify "doubt"as my greatest difficulty. This doubt invades all areas of my consciousness,and I suffer the restlessness and frustration as predicted


can someone inform me of the exact name of the book of the sutras that is translated in english in the most original form? Thanks
may your journey be new, every moment of it


Could someone please help out with the obstacles on the spiritual path? This sutra (I-30) mentions 9 obstacles / distractions / antarayah which stand in the way of controlling the mind. In the next chapter, sutra II-30 also speaks about obstacles, but calls them primal causes of suffering or klesha’s. Remember that the 5 klesha’s are: ignorance, egoism, attachment, aversion, clinging to life. Both types of obstacles (antarayah and kleshas) are subdued by meditation as described in sutras I-32, II-11. Are antarayah and kleshas the same? I have a feeling that they are similar but also different. It almost seems as if kleshas are more deeply rooted, inherent qualities of the mind. Antarayah seem to be more like states of mind, transient conditions on the surface of the mind. Is this so?


I find Iyengar’s classifications helpful to recognise these in myself, but from a Buddhist perspective I believe that all our physical, mental and spiritual circumstances are a result of our own past actions. The root of all suffering is presented as ignorance.


And how do you lift this veil of ignorance ? Facing and overcoming the mentioned obstacles. I don’t see any conflict here.