"Don't pray for your obstacles to be removed, pray to overcome your obstacles."
~ Dr. Ramadas
I was studying in an Ayurvedic healing village in southern India when our Vaidya (Ayurvedic doctor) taught me the important lesson above. I was struggling with the extreme heat, huge cockroaches and large, FURRY spiders. One morning when we were taking a walk in the garden, Dr. Ramadas mentioned to be very careful at dusk walking off the path. He explained that it's when the snakes go hunting. Large, crawling creatures, no air conditioning and now potential cobra attacks?! I thought I had reached my limit. Expressing my concern, the Vaidya explained that obstacles are in our path so we can experience growth. If everything was easy, we'd never be pushed to reach our potential.
He told me to practice ahimsa (non-harming), a yogic principle that asks us to do no harm to all beings. So the next time I took a shower and a tarantula-like spider tried to join me, I scooped it up with a cup and took it outside. I did the same with the 3 inch long cockroaches when they were in my room. It not only taught me compassion, but to let go of my fear of over the unfamiliar.
When we are challenged, we are invited to see opportunity over obstacles. This isn't always easy. Especially when we have yet to see the rainbow after the storm. When we're in the middle of it, we can feel stuck, we procrastinate, we avoid, and can even feel paralyzed with fear. Ganesha (pictured above) is known as "the remover of obstacles". The elephant headed deity symbolizes fearlessness, strength and courage. We can invoke these qualities within ourselves as we practice overcoming obstacles in yoga.
There are many benefits to a consistent yoga practice. The higher purpose, however, is psychological and spiritual transformation. Pantanjali's Yoga Sutras tell us that yoga is "controlling the activities of the mind, so we become established in our own true nature, which results in our liberation from suffering." If we are unable to control the mind, we only identify with the mind's activities (the ego). The mind is drawn to the outside world, seeking fulfillment in things that are impermanent. Only by controlling the mind and turning it inward, will we discover our true selves, which is the source of centeredness, strength and joy.
Citta Vriti is the scattering of the mind that feeds the distraction of disease, doubt, mental heaviness, illusory thinking, old stories, a failure to proceed and unsteadiness. These obstacles prevent inward movement, the real goal of yoga. The Yoga Sutras state the one who practices diligently, over a long period of time, one can overcome any obstacles that will inevitably arise in the practice, and symbiotically in life. Yoga is a tool to help us overcome our obstacles. It supports us in understanding and strengthening the true nature of who we are. Ayurvedic self-care and healthy lifestyle principles also help us become our balanced, best self. This is a path towards transformation.
What obstacles are standing in your way of being your best self? Can you see your challenges as an opportunities for growth? This is the path of a spiritual warrior.