The Kleshas

Term 1, 2013 Yoga in Hawthorn and Malvern

As the end of this term is getting close, I thought it was time to get another newsletter out. With the very hot start of the new year we gently eased ourselves back into the ‘yoga routine’. We learned about the sheetali and sheetkari pranayama practices, which helped us to create an evaporative cooling effect within our bodies and the last three weeks of the term we dedicated to ‘yoga against the wall’.

I always find it interesting how, using the wall as a tool of alignment, can change the way we ‘see’ ourselves in a pose. Once you have the support of the wall, it is easier to concentrate on the technique of balance and alignment, particularly with trikonasanaand ardha chandrasana. Everyone was able to remain in the poses for longer than they normally do, which helps to create the muscle memory for next time they practice these poses without the support of the wall.

It was also very pleasing to see that quite a few students attempted the reverse right angle handstand against the wall.This pose is particularly good for a sense of empowerment and knowing that you can trust yourself, not to mention the gaining of core- and shoulder strength. It made me realize we have come a long way together since we started!

Next term, after Easter, I would like to introduce a few more useful, but not as ‘mainstream’ aspects of yoga. We will continue with our normal asana practice, just like we did when we went through the Kundalini practice, but this time we are going to centre our practice around the ‘5 obstacles (afflictions) of the mind’ or Kleshas, as they are called in Sanskrit. These obstacles are said to be the main cause of unhappiness in our lives. Once we raise awareness to these obstacles, we can neutralize their power over us and hopefully become more relaxed about life.

These 5 Kleshas are as follows:

1. Avidya = ignorance – Denial or not wanting to know certain things about ourselves is a common occurrence. What is our true unchanging self? Is ignorance really bliss, or is knowledge no weight?
2. Asmita =  ego – who am I, who is truly me, if I leave the ego out of this equation? Is too much ego and the need for personal power leading us to continuous disappointment? Think here of a ‘control freak’. Can you let go of wanting things to be just so?
3. Raga =  attraction – desperately wanting and acquiring things/people, makes us suffer because we perceive ourselves as incomplete without them. If only I had ‘x’ I would be truly happy….does that really work?
4. Dvesha = aversion or hate – procrastination, not willing to try something new and repression are forms of this klesha we see in daily life.
5. Abhinivesha = fear of death –  because we fear not being able to fulfill our wishes (asmita, raga and dvesha contribute to this). As long as we think that consciousness is limited to our bodily existence we fear losing control of that body. We might have snippets of happiness but our mind is clouded with fear.

These obstacles sound so very profound, but you will see that in daily life every little conflict we face, is connected to one of these kleshas. In fact, they are no big deal if we can remain in the ‘observer’ position of our awareness, creating some sort of detachment, rather than involvement. Life can be smooth and easy, it’s just a matter of practice. Easier said than done perhaps, but through our yoga practice of asanas, pranayama and meditation we’ll get a clear idea of how to tackle these kleshas. I am planning to dedicate 2 weeks to each klesha. Don’t worry if you miss one, it is just a theme for the class and practice is as normal.

Announcement: As from 16th of April I am looking forward to be running 1 hr. meditation classes on Thursdays from 1-2 pm at my home. For those of you who would like to attend, please email me on For the whole term these classes will be free of charge, but I will have a donation box for a nominated charity in the room.(max.10 students)

May the benefits of your practice stay with you and extend beyond you,