Yoga Obstacles: Setbacks and Plateaus

Yoga is the effort full path, which entails a road with inescapable obstacles, plateaus, and setbacks. When we are facing a challenge, it is easy to disregard the valuable opportunity we are also presented for gaining new inner knowledge. As we begin to take the necessary steps to overcome our discomfort, more often than not, we’ll gain insightful information and inner strength, as we work our way through on overcoming our road blocks.

Yoga Sutra 1.14 sa tu dirghakala nairantarya satkarasevito drdhabhumih

When dealing with an injury, a disrupting life event, or anything else that impedes us from taking daily practice, there’s a sense of defeat that can bring down our spirit a little bit, or a lot. It is important to understand the power of taking mouse bites. Applying effort consistently and steadily is all it takes. It is not about applying full on effort only when you’re feeling 100 when climbing peaks and valleys to then give up all effort when you hit the proverbial wall. Effort also comes into play when we are halted on our journey. It’s the key to overcome that sense of defeat. Compassion towards oneself, as well as time and patience, are necessary and valuable elements to continue on the path. Steady effort, however small, is key. Just like a mouse can break through a wall by taking small little bites at a time, that which hinders progress can be an opportunity for insight, strength, and empowerment.

Setbacks are great opportunities. 

Setbacks are great opportunities to observe and study not only the makings of our mind, inner strength, and will power, but also the reasons why we take on a spiritual practice in the first place. Oftentimes, when we deal with injuries in our physical yoga practice, and our ego gets knocked down a pec or two, we realize that inner peace, joy, contentment can still be achieved through the other limbs of yoga; such as: pranayama-breathing techniques, concentration, meditation, etc. We also realize the more subtle aspects of our physical practice and how restorative it is meant to be and feel when we are forced to decelerate and deepen our awareness. When our ego gets poked and deflated, it is easy to loose faith. However, this is the time we have been training for to step forward and handle the way we decide to deal with the new limiting situation.

The lessons learned will be that much deeper and stronger.

There is beauty in the humbling power of a setback. We are given the priceless opportunity to become stronger, as we learn and re-learn what we have been doing up until that point. More often than not, we gain a double punch of extra power. We are bound to comeback stronger when we learn to overcome our seemingly insurmountable walls. Fear not your setbacks, for the bigger they are, the stronger the comeback will be. The lessons learned will be that much deeper and stronger. Obstacles and setbacks present themselves in our path, and we are somehow forced to deal with them, unless you simply let it all go, quick, and abandon the practice all together. But, for those of us who have experienced the deep transformational power of a firmly established yoga practice, it is easier to naturally stay the course, despite any down feelings we might be experiencing. It’s, however, a different story when we experience a plateau.

It helps to know that this too is part of the yoga journey.

A plateau during our practice can bring a sense of apathy and sadness, a debilitating confusion of sorts, for there is nothing wrong with our practice, we know-feel-and understand we are not better without it. We believe how incredibly powerful it is for our well being to maintain it, but somehow we experience this phase, period, in which it all feels stagnant, nothing is evolving, there are no big shift and changes, no apparent progress. Firstly, it helps to know that this too is part of the yoga journey. Know and understand that we all go through this, and like anything else, it will also pass. With that said, what can you do in the meantime? Stay the course! That, in and of itself, will eventually reap its rewards, and you will look back with a wiser understanding of why the plateau presented itself on the first place. But what about now? When you are experiencing a plateau, and you feel a sense of exhaustion brought about by a seemingly chain of monotonous repetitions. You will not come out of it unless you challenge yourself a little.

Pick and choose something in your practice that you know could benefit from that deeper focus. 

The couple of times I have personally experienced a plateau, I have asked myself; “Why am I even feeling like I am plateauing when I know for a fact that there are a lot of loose ends in my practice that need some tightening up?” There are many aspects of my practice that need working, polishing, and being more firmly established. Going through the motions, day in and day out, will eventually land you in that dreadful place. When we create awareness, an honest inner understanding that we could deepen our practice through focus and attention, then the game changes altogether. Pick and choose something in your practice that you know could benefit from that deeper focus, say for example: jump backs and jump throughs, anyone? That’s exactly what I chose when I entered into my first plateau. Attentively working on my inner and outer strength, sharpened my focus when I tried to lift myself off the mat each and every time. It helped me gain back my attention and doubly increase it by journeying inward within the inner layers of my own mental and physical awareness, concentration, and inner strength.

Maintain a deep inner focus by solely vowing to maintain a steady gaze towards the focal point. 

My whole practice actually benefited because of it. I was back again in mind-training mode. Remember, this is a mind training practice, it is not about the ultimate expression of a perfect pose, or the floating effect of weightless jump back. You can very well decide on bringing full attention to the quality of your breath from the beginning to the end of the practice noticing with laser like focus each time you loose and apply immediate effort to regain it back by breathing deeply. Or, opt for committing to maintain a deep inner focus by solely vowing to maintain a steady gaze towards the focal point of attention that the asana calls for and not derail your gaze at all. Can you do that throughout the practice? From beginning to need? Not look at the phone, the door, the clock, the phone? Full on inward attention? That’s a tough one, which means it’s a powerful one. A strong mental challenge is what has personally helped me. Choosing an element in my practice that I perhaps even dread and applying all my effort into it has been incredibly liberating and worth it.

Enter your challenge with indestructible will power, and awaken your inner Spartan.

Taking in fully the challenges people, practice, and events life brings you, is the ultimate training ground. Getting in the arena getting your ass kicked is the prerequisite for victory over your difficulties. Enter your challenge with indestructible will power, and awaken your inner Spartan. Gladiators are not extinct in antiquity, they are dormant within. It’s not people and animals waiting in the arena, but the obstacles and the challenges that need facing intelligently. Awaken your primal hero, that archetype available to all of us, and slay the dragon! Be your own hero!

By Patricia Amado 


Practice with Patricia Amado on Omstars

Patricia Amado embarked on her yoga journey in 2010 leading her to find the Ashtanga Yoga system in 2011, a practice she has remained devoted ever since. In 2013, she completed Miami Life Center’s very first training under the guidance of Kino MacGregor initiating her passionate path of teaching and sharing the Ashtanga Yoga method. She traveled to Mysore, India in 2015, 2016, and 2019 to study with R. Sharath Jois. Most recently, she completed a two year apprenticeship program at MLC under the guidance of her mentor and MLC Director Tim Feldman.  She is also a student of Yoga philosophy and Sanskrit recitation of the old scriptures with Professor Rao, Dr. M.A. Jayashree and Professor Sri. M.A. Narasimhan.  Patricia aims for her students to experience the stress-relieving and transformative benefits that a committed Ashtanga Yoga practice can bring into their life. She is dedicated to teaching in the authentic tradition of Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois.

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