Kleshas : The Cause of Mental Pain and Unhappiness Part 1 

The beauty of yoga is that this is not just a physical practice. Yoga seeks to provide tools to make us better human beings and help us live happy lives filled with purpose. The practice is not just happening on the mat, it also happens off the mat, in your everyday lives.

Already thousands of years ago did the ancient teachings of yoga understand our human state and the causes of unhappiness.

This past two weeks I have been focusing my studies of the five kleshas (ignorance, ego, attachment, aversion and fear), or afflictions of the mind, which cloud our judgement and lead to negative thoughts and behavior.

I had been really focusing on attachment (raga) and aversion (dvesha). Both to me are very much related, as they manifest in pleasure and avoidance of pain. Raga and Dvesha both refer to our need to feel pleasure and constantly looking to avoid pain. We are often misguided by what pleasure means, and frequently that pleasure we cultivated, turns into pain or suffering.

When we speak of pain, we mean the mental state. It’s what we often perceive as suffering and/or mental agony. We are looking for easy ways to experience pleasure and avoid what appears to us as pain. Often, pain hides in the form of pleasure. 

Food is a great example of pleasure vs. pain. We delight in greasy foods, only to regret it later and to dwell about our weight. We tend to have an aversion to workouts and might decide to watch TV instead, only to beat ourselves up about being lazy.

We plan to have a conversation with a love one that might seem difficult to initiate, but that talk could lead to a deeper connection and improved relationship.

I have been studying aversion during yoga classes and made some observations about my practice. I have known for a while that I have an aversion to inversions. I avoid them at all cost. Maybe because when I was a kid I fell on my shoulder and was scared from ever trying again.

I started studying my aversion and realized that I needed to approach it from a benefits perspective. I thought of all the things I get to gain from practicing handstands/headstands and I noticed how beneficial incorporating them in my practice would be to my self-worth. It will help me eliminate any fears and overcome any thoughts of not being enough or not being complete.  

My inversion practice is still not perfect. I still struggle with it, but I have a better understanding of what it is that holds me back. I know how I can benefit from including it in my practice and I am making steps to improve that side of my practice.

There are tools that help you eliminate kleshas. Physical practice is one of them, Yamas and Niyamas are another.  I realize how Yamas and Niyamas were essential in eliminating kleshas on a mental level.

I found asteya to be instrumental in my work on raga and dvesha. The teaching of Asteya (non-stealing) thought me why I need to practice inversions. I was stealing from myself and robbing myself from fully experiencing the practice. My ignorance and my aversion to inversions stopped me from fully benefitting from Asana. I discovered that I was hiding behind my fear, and not allowing courage to enter my practice. I didn’t realize that my aversion was stealing from who I truly am and who I can become. 

Here are some questions I found useful when I tried to overcome my aversion:

  • How will the aversion/attachment benefit me long term?
  • Does my avoidance bring peace or does it create a disconnect between the other person and me?
  • How will facing the perceived pain change me and grow me as a person?
  • Will facing the aversion create an opportunity for me to grow?

Yoga is such a smart system. The more you sit with it, the more you practice and study, the more you grown and learn about yourself.


Photo by Second Avenue

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