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Many Americans still view Yoga as an odd curiosity and, primarily, as a form of exercise. Before I first began going to a Yoga retreat center I wondered if it would be too strange for me (even though I knew someone who had been going there for years). I had a wonderful time, and have returned there many times. But, like so many others, it is a retreat center all by itself. As Yoga centers based on the model of chain stores, with some consistency in terms of the services and environment they offer, spread across America, I think more people will take a chance on beginning to examine this curious path toward relaxation and peace of mind.

Obstacles to personal growth: patanjali’s five hindrances

Patanjali’s five hindrances refer to conditions that block our personal development. The hindrances are identified as: avidya (ignorance), sense of personality, desire, hate, and sense of attachment. It may seem confusing to us that a sense of personality is a hindrance to personal development. Isn’t the goal in life to become aware of and comfortable with our true selves? Unfortunately, from the perspective of Yoga, that belief is the result of the single most challenging hindrance, the one that is the source of all other difficulties: ignorance. The problem, according to Patanjali, is that our sense of personality is a mistaken identification of our mental awareness, a product of our brain (nature), with our true and transcendental self (spirit). Specifically, the fifth Sutra of Book II states that “avidya is the condition of confusing the permanent, pure, blissful and the Self with that which is impermanent, impure, painful and the not-Self” (Bailey, 1927; pg. 115). The latter point refers specifically to the duality between our true self, that temporary manifestation of spirit in nature, with the body/mind of this world that will cease to exist when we die (though death does not really exist in the same sense in the perspective of Yoga).

It is also something of a problem to use the term attachment in a negative way. In Western psychology attachment is typically used to refer to the bonding between parent and child. Thus, we consider attachment to be a necessary condition of healthy development. In Yoga, however, any form of attachment is a delusion in which we consider elements of the natural world to be of importance. Only the universal spirit is perspective, even the love of a parent for a child is a delusion that keeps us attached to this world, and would therefore be a hindrance to our union with God. Actually, things are not as bleak as that might make them seem at first. Since there is only one universal spirit, we and our children, indeed everyone everywhere, is one and the same universal spirit, both past and present (hence the meaninglessness of death). So it is not wrong to love, it is only a mistake to think that love for a person or love for a thing is the most important thing in life. What is important is to practice Yoga in order to overcome these hindrances, to escape the laws of karma, to quiet the mind and transcend the natural world. Then one will know their union with God and all creation.

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Source:  OpenStax, Personality theory in a cultural context. OpenStax CNX. Nov 04, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11901/1.1
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