Ayurveda for Meditators: 5 Obstacles Blocking Your Practice and How to Overcome Them
Are you a fidgety meditator? Find it hard to stay focused? Catch yourself daydreaming or busily making lists instead of meditating? You’re not alone.
There are many common challenges experienced on the meditation cushion that interrupt motivation and disrupt commitment. This is a very normal part of the meditation journey. But with an understanding of Ayurveda, there’s hope for moving past them.
Seeing Clearly: Boosting Sattva
Within Ayurveda’s goals for maintaining health and preventing disease, there’s great focus on balancing the doshas of vata, pitta, and kapha and supporting the path of enhanced mental clarity—of boosting sattva.
Ayurveda views the original state of the mind to be sattvic, and a sattvic mind is a mind ripe for meditation. However, the mind’s natural sattvic state often gets veiled or clouded by other energies because the state of the mind is directly affected by diet and lifestyle choices.
For example, you’ve likely experienced how certain foods help you feel energized and alert, while other foods make you feel drowsy and groggy. Or how certain TV shows are amusing and relaxing, while others leave you feeling agitated and annoyed. The mind is influenced by our choices.
From the Ayurvedic perspective, you can reduce common meditation challenges with straightforward seasonal-living strategies that balance the three doshas and enhance sattva.
So, when it comes to supporting your daily meditation, skillfully prioritizing sattva-boosting and dosha-balancing choices will directly influence the ease, clarity, and steadiness of the mind.
To see how Ayurvedic living can help create a more optimal environment for inner peace and clarity, let’s take a look at the classic five hindrances to meditation and explore their correlation to the doshas.
5 Common Obstacles to Meditation
The Buddhist tradition notes five main obstacles during meditation. These challenges distract the meditator from the meditation technique.
If these obstacles disrupt meditation ongoingly, the long-term meditator may have trouble cultivating the deeper states of compassion, insight, and wisdom that meditation can provide. Quite bothersome and disadvantageous!
The five common obstacles to meditation include:
- Grasping, craving, or desire: daydreaming, craving sweets, thinking about vacations, sensual desires. The mind is distracted by images, visualizations, and cravings for things that are pleasant.
- Aversion or ill-will: judgmental mind, inner critic, not wanting to meditate, general agitation, feeling annoyed by others. The mind is distracted by thoughts and feelings about things that are unpleasant.
- Restlessness: fidgeting with alignment and props, restless body, itching, scratching, busy mind, planning mind, making mental lists. The mind is distracted by constant motion and has trouble remaining still and present.
- Sloth or torpor: sleepiness, tiredness, lack of motivation, foggy headedness, trouble focusing, sluggish body, slouching. The mind is distracted by lethargy or grogginess and has trouble remaining alert.
- Doubt: skepticism, uncertainty, cynicism, wondering whether one is “doing it right,” worry about whether meditation is valuable. The mind is distracted by apprehension and has trouble remaining committed and present.
Which hindrances have you faced recently? Though we tend to encounter the same hindrance again and again, it’s common to bump up against each one at some point. Though it’s difficult to completely eliminate the hindrances, knowing which one(s) distracts you from meditation most often is helpful for reducing its occurrence in the future.
Elevated Doshas and the 5 Obstacles
Now that we’ve identified the five hindrances to meditation, let’s see how similar they are to the elevated or vitiated states of Ayurveda’s three doshas. Here are some common irritations that arise when the doshas are agitated:
- Vata: scattered mind, feeling spacey, restlessness, fidgety body, difficulty focusing, inconsistency, fear, nervousness, ungroundedness.
- Pitta: frustration, anger, aggressiveness, aversion, ill-will, overthinking, criticism, judgmental mind, hot headedness.
- Kapha: lack of motivation, sluggishness, sleepiness, lethargy, foggy headedness, lack of clarity, obstinance.
Wow! Notice how similar this list of elevated doshas is to the list of meditation hindrances?
When the doshas are elevated, they contribute to the meditation obstacles—blocking or veiling the natural sattvic state of mind that supports meditation. When out of balance, the doshas play a part in triggering or escalating the five hindrances.
This is important to note, as dosha-balancing diet, lifestyle, and self-care techniques can radically enrich your meditation practice by reducing the hindrances and boosting a state of sattva.
Maha Gunas and the 5 Obstacles
Additionally, Ayurveda’s maha gunas play a big role in what arises during meditation. These three subtle energies mainly show up in Ayurvedic psychology, as they have a stronger influence over the mind than the doshas.
You’ve already met sattva, and it rarely causes trouble for meditators. But rajas and tamas are often described as being the “doshas of the mind,” as they can easily get out of balance and cause disturbance. Here are examples of all three in the mind, including how rajas and tamas manifest when elevated or vitiated:
- Sattva: clarity, balance, harmony, ease, order, inner calm. This peaceful mind state supports insight and awakening.
- Rajas: over-stimulated, frenzied, restlessness, spinning, moving too fast, hyperactivity. When disturbed, rajas puts the mind in a hectic, turbulent, overexcited state.
- Tamas: inertia, apathy, torpor, destructiveness, lethargy, laziness. When disturbed, tamas puts the mind in a dull, ignorant, idle state.
Wow again! See how similar elevated rajas and tamas are to the meditation hindrances?
Extra rajas can directly lead to craving, ill-will, and restlessness. Likewise, extra tamas can directly lead to sloth, torpor, and doubt. To cultivate a consistent and deep meditation practice, Ayurveda encourages reducing excess rajas and tamas, while actively boosting sattva.
How to Enhance Your Meditation with Ayurveda
The meditation path is meant to help us awaken to our own true nature, recognize our interconnectedness, and see clearly into the true nature of reality. Unfortunately, the hindrances are real roadblocks to that awakening—especially when meditators get stuck in a rut repeatedly wrestling with the hindrances.
Although it’s tough to fully overcome the hindrances, it is beneficial to investigate and work with the hindrances when they arise, as that builds mindful awareness, self-regulation, and presence.
So, by reducing the hindrances with appropriate diet, lifestyle practices, and Ayurvedic self-care techniques, meditators have a substantially better chance of sitting comfortably, relaxing, committing to the meditation technique of choice, and enhancing concentration—thereby boosting clarity, compassion, insight, and wisdom.
No matter which path, school, or lineage of meditation that someone is exploring, Ayurvedic practices can directly improve the meditation experience and journey.
So, identify for yourself which hindrance shows up most often when you’re meditating, then connect that with the elevated dosha or maha guna that best matches that hindrance (e.g. sloth and torpor hindrance relates to elevated kapha and elevated tamas).
Then, choose your favorite Ayurvedic practices to balance that dosha and watch how your daily meditation practice changes over the coming weeks and months. Wishing you all the best for the journey!
If you want to go deeper, I have developed a whole course on how to enhance your meditation with Ayurveda. Check out the link in my bio.