Teaching Ashtanga,  Uncategorized,  Yoga Philosophy,  Yoga Sutras

Yoga Sutras For Modern Day Life: Sick, Dull and Nowhere Near Happiness

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 1:30: The obstacles, which are distractions of the mind, are sickness….

Defining the Sutra

This begins a list of obstacles that we will break down one by one. These distractions make it hard to stay on the path to yoga/ samadhi/freedom from suffering. One of the obstacles is sickness.

Why It Is Important?

Sickness is an obstacle when the illness causes the mind to be dull. In order to see truth, the mind needs to be clear.  Sometimes sickness and injury can be a blessing because it slows us down and helps us to prioritize what is really important in our lives. Many people are bought to the doorway of the heart through pain. When the illness makes our mind dull, it impairs our ability to see the truth.



There are also some unique factors, for modern day yogis, that the yogis of Patanjali’s day did not deal with that result in a dull mind

  • Spending 40  + hours a week in an office  between 4 walls without sunlight and nature
  • Prescription drug use
  • Over use of cell phones, TV’s and computers
  • Chemicals in our air, clothes, foods and homes
  • Constant stimulation through noise (TV, radio, cars, phone, other people around you) and multi tasking
  • Food allergies (gluten is a big one)

These result in what is commonly known as brain fog.

Brain fog, foggy head is often described as(anxietycentre.com):

  • Your head, mind, and brain feel foggy or like in a fog.

  • It feels like you have a foggy head, foggy mind.

  • You have difficulty thinking, concentrating, and/or forming thoughts.

  • Your thinking feels like it is muddled and impaired.

  • Some people describe this symptom as being “foggy-headed” or having a “foggy head.”

  • It seems as if your thoughts are illusive, and things that you once knew seem hard to comprehend or recall.

  • It feels like your short-term memory isn’t as good as it used to be.

  • It feels like normal intellectual tasks seem much more difficult.

  • You find it hard to focus and concentrate.

  • You are more forgetful (forget things that you normally wouldn’t).

  • You have difficulty focusing on and carrying on conversations.

  • Your thoughts seem like in a cloud.

  • Your thinking isn’t as clear as it normally is.

  • Your head feels foggy, clouded, muddled, and ‘off.’





Modern Day Application

A physical yoga practice, as well as unplugging from stimulation, is important on the path of yoga.  Our physical yoga practice keeps the mind and body healthy and aid in the prevention of illness. A balanced yoga practice should invigorate the body and mind not deplete it. Stay away from yoga practices that make you feel heavy, lethargic and tired afterwards. Your yoga practice should leave you feeling alive and ready to take on the world.

Some people use their yoga practice the way that mothers use trips to the park with their kids. When some mothers want their kids to chill out , they take them to the park, tire them out and then the kids are docile and ready for sleep. While yoga can make you relaxed, it should  not make you dull. It is tempting to get ourselves so tired that we can no longer hear our thoughts. However, the purpose of the yoga is not to dull our minds so we can temporarily forget the thoughts.  The purpose of yoga is to wake us up so that we can see that the thoughts in our minds don’t have to run our lives. It should wake us up to all the things in the world that are not serving the greater good. Our yoga practice should open our eyes to all the ways that we can thrive. Yoga should help us to have new experiences and to innovate. It should make us fearless and open us up to love and compassion. It should never make us dull, sick or exhausted.



Be mindful of the stimulating elements that you add to your yoga practice. When used mindfully, music, heat, and interactions with teachers and  fellow students can enrich a practice. When overused, they are distractions that keep us from hearing the quiet voice of the Self. Heat and humidity, when overused, can  cause us to be nauseous and light headed. Dehydration and electrolyte imbalance also cause brain fog  (http://bebrainfit.com/stop-brain-fog-know-the-causes-symptoms-and-solutions/). To much heat can block the chemical messengers that signal pain to the brain thereby causing injury because we don’t know when we have pushed to far (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/5144864.stm).

On the path of yoga, we have to be vigilant in ridding ourselves of things in our lives that hinder our ability to think clearly. When we are not clear, our minds become confused and we start to believe the stories and chaos that our mind is spinning for us. We start to act on these thoughts and begin to create new karma(action) for which we have to suffer the consequences. Yoga is meant to free us of the cycle of karma or constantly being in debt to the cycle of pain and suffering. This can only happen if we remain clear and healthy and stop creating new dramas that have to be dealt with.

It is important to free ourselves from stimulation every day. Cut off the TV, cell phones, lights, computers and just be with the Self. This can happen during your yoga practice or it can be a ritual done at night or first thing in the morning. Yoga teaches us that we have never been lost. The Self never went anywhere. Our view was just blocked by stimulation and our incessant thoughts. The answers are inside of us but we never get quiet enough to hear. If we want happiness, we  have to let go of the mental and physical sickness that has dulled the bright and shining diamond of our hearts.

Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail shanna@ashtangayogaproject.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *