The other day I shared the Eight Limbs of Yoga that provide a type of guideline to lead us to liberation. But through this journey we can struggle. It’s natural human behavior to obstruct ourselves from happiness, maybe not even intentionally. For the most part, we strive for happiness and to avoid suffering. We’re striving for Samadhi, a state where suffering doesn’t exist and we simply exist with awareness. But our darn natural human behavior can get in the way of that.
Patanjali has described the following five factors as the elements that contribute to suffering:
- Avidya: Not seeing things as they are
- Raga: Attachment
- Dvesa: Aversion
- Asmita: The story of I, me, and mine
- Abhinivesa: The thirst for further existence
These five factors are referred to as the five Klesas. The term klesa comes from the verbal root klis, which means “to suffer, torment, or distress.”
The five Klesas keep suffering in motion because they create loops in the mind-body that reinforce habitual patterns of perception and reaction. The important question then is how do we work with these obstacles called Klesas, keeping in mind there is no way to avoid completely.
This work can be a more in-depth process since we all need to have a deeper understanding of self to fully understand how we relate and cling to each one of these Klesas.
Asmita can be a strong one for all of us since we all have a tendency to paint a story in our mind of how our lives should unfold. Raga is another obvious one since attachment is a natural occurrence in our society. A way to start exploring your relationship with the different Klesas is through meditation and asana practice. Notice through the practice how each Klesas arises and address how you feel and react in the moment. For example, half moon might be a pose that comes easy to you but on a particular day you are struggling to keep your balance and can’t find the strength to lift your leg off the floor. Asmita might arise with thoughts that you should be able to do this since you’ve held this specific pose many times before and raga might be present because your attached to how practice went the day before.
As we begin to see how Klesas arise in our meditation and asana practice we’ll begin to seep this over into other elements of our lives. In Michael Stone’s book ‘The Inner Tradition of Yoga’, he explains that:
‘The Five Kleasa teach us that by putting a wedge between our feelings and our aversion or attachment to them, we make a seat for ourselves in present experience.’
I would love to hear how you personally relate or struggle with any of the specific Klesas. Share with me in the comment section!