“Overeating, exertion, talkativeness, adhering to rules, being in the company of common people and unsteadiness (wavering mind) are the six (causes) which destroy yoga.“
Ida Pingala Sushumna
According to Hatha yoga there are six major factors which lead to failure in sadhana, and prevent yoga, or union, from occurring.
In hatha yoga, union means uniting the two energy forces in the body, i.e., the pranic and mental energy flowing in Ida and Pingala nadis. Usually, these two forces do not operate simultaneously; either the mental force predominates or the vital energy is dominant.
Hatha yoga is the process of balancing the flow of these two alternating forces to bring perfect physical and mental equilibrium and awakening of sushumna and kundalini.
Union of the 2 energies
All branches of yoga unite these two energies and channelize them through the third nadi, sushumna. The three nadis, Ida, Pingala and Sushumna, terminate in ajna chakra, the psychic center which is situated in the region of the medulla oblongata and the pineal gland.
Through the practice of yoga, Ida and Pingala are equalized, Sushumna is activated and ajna chakra is awakened. Ida is connected to the left nostril and the right brain hemisphere. Pingala is connected to the right nostril and the left-brain hemisphere. In the same way that the right hemisphere governs the left side of the body, on a pranic level ida also controls the functions of the left side of the body. Likewise, pingala and the left hemisphere govern the right side of the body.
Just as the brain hemispheres and the nostrils alternate their functions in ninety-minute cycles, so do Ida and Pingala. Ida and the right hemisphere activate an introverted state of awareness: orientation in space, artistic, creative and musical ability. Conversely, pingala and the left hemisphere externalize the awareness. Your approach becomes logical, sequential, mathematical and analytical.
Ida nadi controls the subconscious activities, whereas Pingala is responsible for the conscious and dynamic functions. When these forces are balanced and operating simultaneously, then both nostrils are active.
This indicates that Sushumna nadi is functioning. Usually this occurs for one to four minutes between each ninety-minute cycle.
The purpose of Hatha yoga practice
Hatha yoga practice is to increase the duration and flow of Sushumna and the period when both nostrils flow simultaneously so that a balance is created in the physical and mental functions. When the mind and body are not functioning in harmony, there is a division between the physical and mental rhythms, which inevitably leads to sickness.
When a sadhaka is in the process of uniting the two opposite forces of Ida and Pingala, he must avoid all activities which waste energy and distract the mind.
The 6 major factors causing failure in sadhana
One major obstacle to yoga (or union) is overeating. When the body is overloaded with food, it becomes sluggish and the mind becomes dull. Over a period of time toxins build up in the body, constipation sets in and the whole physical/mental system becomes blocked.
If the body is toxic and lethargic, how can you expect to make progress in sadhana?
Whatever sadhana you do will act as a purification, you will just be spending your time removing toxins and disease.
However, if you avoid overeating and its consequences, then the sadhana you are doing will help you to progress more quickly.
Swami Sivananda and many other yogis have said that the stomach should be half filled with food, one quarter with water and one quarter with air.
The next advice is that the hatha yogi should avoid overexerting or overstraining the body and mind. Hard physical labor or intense mental work taxes one of the energy systems and can create further imbalance between the two energies.
The hatha yogi has to conserve and build up his store of energy for spiritual purposes. And should not waste it in performing any unnecessary physical or mental feats.
Too much talking dissipates vital energy and wastes time which could be better spent in awakening the inner awareness. Gossiping with people who have low morals, base consciousness and sensuous desires cannot enlighten your soul, rather, their negative vibrations may influence you. Social situations and irrelevant discussions definitely distract the mind from sadhana.
Although Swatmarama advises that a sadhaka should not adhere to strict rules and regulations, the guru’s instructions must be followed. As far as social rituals and religious doctrines are concerned, it is unnecessary that they be maintained for spiritual progress. Sadhana is not dependent on social morals nor are its effects promoted by religious practices. Adhering to rules makes one ‘narrow minded.’ Yoga is meant to expand the consciousness, not to limit it. A yogi should have a free and open mind.
If you are accustomed to taking a cold bath every morning before practice, and one day you have no water… You should not be disturbed, take a bath when you can get water. Your mind should be flexible and you should be able to adjust to circumstances.
Unsteadiness means an imbalanced body metabolism, inability to hold one posture for a period of time, and a wavering mind. Obviously yoga cannot be achieved under these conditions. When there is physical, mental, emotional and psychic imbalance, the energy is dispersed. But if the energy is properly channelized, all the bodily systems become stable, and physical and mental steadiness develop automatically. Unsteadiness also means wavering willpower.
Inconstancy and irregularity
One day you get up at 3 a.m. and the next morning you sleep in till 7 a.m. because you feel lazy. When there is inconsistency and irregularity in lifestyle further imbalance in the body will ensue. An unswerving mind and steady body cultivate yoga.
If you can live in a hermitage as described in the previous sloka, all these obstacles will be avoided naturally. However, if you are unable to live in such a place, try to develop the habit of avoiding all activities which are useless. All activities which are time consuming and energy depleting. Try to channelize all your desires and actions into spiritual ventures.
Apart from these obstacles, the Tantraraja Tantra mentions that:
“The six obstacles to yoga are kama (lust), krodha (anger), lobha (greed), moha (infatuation), abhimana (pride), mada (arrogance).”
The six obstacles described in Hatha yoga and in tantra are interwoven and interlinked. Those of tantra have a broader scope and pinpoint the obstacle to actually be the mental attitude.