Kleshas Yoga: 5 Obstacles You Need to Conquer

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Ivana Naskova

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As I delved deeper into the vast realm of yogic philosophy, I came to understand a profound concept known as Kleshas. Both Mahayana and Theravada traditions refer to kleshas as the Three Poisons or Three Unwholesome Roots. In the ancient Indian text, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, I also discovered an exceptionally insightful and detailed description of the five Kleshas.

Yogis have contemplated this fundamental teaching for centuries, as it is believed to be the source of human suffering. According to this philosophy, recognizing and conquering these kleshas is a vital step on our spiritual path toward attaining inner tranquility and divine consciousness.

I was deeply moved by what I discovered and am thrilled to share this knowledge with you, knowing that you, too, are eager to learn more about the five poisons or afflictions that are the root cause of our suffering.

What are the five stages of Klesha?

The ancient yogis and Buddhists believe that suffering is caused by five afflictions known as kleshas. These kleshas are responsible for distorting our perception of reality, affecting our thoughts, actions, and emotions.

The degree of their impact on our psyche varies, from being relatively insignificant to causing absolute blindness to the truth. In addition, the kleshas cause suffering and bind us to the endless cycle of birth and rebirth, hindering us from achieving enlightenment.

The ancient Sanskrit term “klesha” is often translated as “poison” or “affliction.” In the context of yogic and Buddhist philosophy, the term refers to specific negative mental tendencies that cloud our understanding of the true nature of things.

The five kleshas are Avidya (ignorance), Asmita (egotism), Raga (attachment), Dvesha (aversion), and Abhinivesha (fear of death).

Significance of Five Kleshas in Yoga


Grasp the Kleshas for Personal Growth

Kleshas, yoga’s five mental afflictions tied to teachings, emotions, suffering, and desires, are crucial to personal growth. They pose like a mirror, revealing the true nature of things in our lives and showing us our flaws and strengths.

  • Ignorance (Avidya): It’s the root of all troubles. Recognizing our ignorance is the first step toward growth.
  • Egoism (Asmita): It blinds us to reality. Letting go of ego helps us see the true nature of things as they are, part of which includes understanding suffering and pain.
  • Attachment (Raga): It chains us to materialistic desires. Breaking these chains frees us for spiritual progress.
  • Aversion (Dvesha): It keeps us stuck in past hurts. Overcoming aversion allows healing and moving forward.
  • Fear of death (Abhinivesha): This fear, the true nature of suffering, holds back living fully and understanding the nature of things. Embracing mortality makes life more meaningful.

Avidya: The Root of Ignorance

Avidya, a Sanskrit word, means ignorance. It’s not just about a lack of knowledge but a deeper spiritual ignorance, often leading to suffering. In the context of Buddhism, it refers to a state of unawareness or ignorance with regard to the Four Noble Truths.

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The Four Noble Truths

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It’s like suffering from attachments to our true selves and reality. It messes up our perception of the world. Moreover, suffering often makes us see things not as they are but as how we perceive them in our state of distress.

As a result, this causes us to make unwholesome choices, aversions, and actions.

Tangled Web of Kleshas

Avidya, often manifesting as suffering, is the root cause of all other kleshas in the yoga tradition. It’s like the mother ship that controls the rest.

The four other kleshas are born out of this ignorance.

Yoga: The Antidote for Avidya

Yoga helps us overcome this poison. It brings awareness and wisdom (Vidya) into our lives.

Practicing yoga regularly can help peel away layers of ignorance, revealing our true nature.

Here’s how yoga does it:

  1. By teaching us mindfulness and focus.
  2. Through meditation, which increases self-awareness.
  3. By promoting physical well-being, leading to mental clarity.
  4. Through breathing exercises that calm the mind.
  5. By encouraging self-study and introspection.

Asmita: Understanding Egoism’s Role

Asmita, in simple terms, is a false sense of self. It’s like looking at yourself in a distorted mirror. You think you’re seeing the real you, but it’s just an image your mind has made up.

Negative Effects

This ego-fueled illusion can lead to some nasty stuff. We’re talking arrogance or low self-esteem here. When you’re stuck in this zone, you tend to act out based on this warped self-image.

Hindrance to True Nature Recognition

Here’s the kicker: Asmita doesn’t just mess with your head; it hinders you from recognizing your true nature. It’s like being lost in a maze and forgetting that there’s a world outside.

Reducing Asmita Through Yogic Principles

So, how do we get rid of this toxin in order to find true happiness? Yoga, my friends! In yoga, we learn that the physical body is simply a vessel for the soul to shine through, and it affects how we can positively respond to our own and others’ sufferings. Here are some steps:

  1. Practice mindfulness: Be aware of your thoughts and feelings without judgment.
  2. Meditate regularly: This helps quiet the mind and reduces ego-driven thoughts.
  3. Adopt non-attachment: Don’t cling to material possessions or achievements; they don’t define you.

Remember, reducing this part of you isn’t about crushing your individuality; it’s about understanding who you truly are beneath all those layers of ego-driven illusions. It’s about gaining power to overcome the blocks in your inner world.

Raga: Unravelling Desire and Attachment

In the realm of yoga, Raga signifies a strong craving or desire for pleasure. It’s a powerful emotion that can lead us astray. It is a fondness for things we find pleasurable. It’s like wanting more of your favorite ice cream even when you’re full.

The Downside

The problem with these attachments is it often leads to dissatisfaction. It’s like chasing the end of a rainbow; you’ll never quite get there.

Rebirth Cycle

In yoga philosophy, this klesha contributes to the cycle of rebirth. Think about it like being stuck on a merry-go-round that just won’t stop.

Taming the Beast of Desire

But don’t worry. There are ways to manage this beast. Mindful yoga practice, such as meditation, can help keep our desires in check.

  • Meditation: Helps us stay present in the moment
  • Mindfulness: Teaches us not to cling to every passing thought
  • Yoga: A physical form of meditation that helps balance mind and body

Remember, taming your desires doesn’t mean getting rid of them completely. It’s about acknowledging them and not letting them control you.

Dvesha (repulsion and aversion)

Dvesha is a Sanskrit term that translates to aversion or repulsion. It’s one of the five kleshas in yoga philosophy, often seen as poisons that cloud our minds and hinder our spiritual growth.

Comprehending Dvesha

Dvesha is all about avoiding pain or discomfort. We humans are wired to run from what hurts us, right? But sometimes, this instinct goes into overdrive.

For example, you might avoid trying new things because you’re scared of failing. This fear stems from Dvesha – the aversion to pain or discomfort.

The Role of Avoidance Behaviours

Avoidance behaviors are actions we take to steer clear of stuff we don’t like. Dvesha usually drives them.

Think about it: Have you ever ditched a workout because you didn’t want to feel sore the next day? That’s Dvesha at work!

Fear, Negative Emotions, and Dvesha

Feeling afraid and negative emotions are closely linked with Dvesha.

Say you had a bad experience with dogs as a kid. Now, even the sight of a dog makes your heart race. That’s an example of how fear can fuel Dvesha.

Techniques for Mitigating Dvesha

Luckily, yoga offers ways to manage this kleshas poison! Acceptance and detachment are key here.

  • Practice mindfulness: Stay present in each moment rather than worrying about possible future discomfort.
  • Cultivate acceptance: Instead of running from uncomfortable feelings, acknowledge them without judgment.
  • Develop non-attachment: Learn not to identify too strongly with your likes and dislikes.

Abhinivesha: Fear of Death

What is Abhinivesha

Abhinivesha, in simple terms, is the fear of dying. It’s a deep-rooted dread that every living being experiences. This fear isn’t just about bodily life ending. It extends to anything we see as part of our identity.

The Link Between Abhinivesha and Anxiety

This clinging to life can lead to anxiety or existential dread. For example, the thought of losing our jobs, relationships, or health can trigger such feelings. These are all parts of what we identify as “life.”

Survival Instinct and Suffering

Our survival instinct is deeply connected with Abhinivesha. We’re wired to avoid dying at all costs – it’s nature’s way of keeping us alive. But this very instinct can cause human suffering when it becomes an affliction.

Overcoming Abhinivesha Through Mindfulness

The good news? You can overcome this fear through practices like meditation and mindfulness. By focusing on the present moment, you start accepting the impermanence of lives and bodies.

Here are some steps:

  1. Begin by acknowledging your fears.
  2. Practice mindfulness exercises daily.
  3. Gradually shift your focus from fearing dying to embracing life.

Remember, overcoming Abhinivesha doesn’t mean ignoring your survival instincts or not caring for your well-being. It simply means not letting fear control your life.


Overcoming Kleshas for Mental Well-being

The Need to Conquer Kleshas

Mental afflictions, also known as kleshas, can be a significant hindrance to our happiness and inner peace. It’s essential to overcome these obstacles to maintain our mental well-being, which in turn can positively impact our relationships, work-life balance, and physical health.

Remember, inner peace can reflect externally, so let’s strive to overcome our mental afflictions and live a fulfilling life!

Steps Toward Balance

So, how do we achieve this balance? Let’s break it down:

  1. Recognize the Klesha: Identifying the problem is always step one.
  2. Practice mindfulness: Stay present and aware of your thoughts and feelings.
  3. Use yoga as a tool: Regular practice can help you gain control over your mind.
  4. Stay consistent: Change doesn’t happen overnight; keep at it!

The Journey through Kleshas Yoga

The exploration of Kleshas in yoga provides a profound insight into the obstacles that cloud our mental well-being. These five afflictions – Avidya, Asmita, Raga, Dvesha, and Abhinivesha – when acknowledged and addressed, can lead to a more balanced and harmonious life. By incorporating the teachings of Kleshas into daily practice, one can navigate through life’s challenges with greater ease and clarity.

It’s crucial to remember that overcoming them is not an overnight process; it requires patience, persistence, and commitment. So why not start this transformative journey today? Embrace the wisdom of yoga and embark on a path toward greater mental well-being.


What are the Five Kleshas in Yoga?

The Five Kleshas in Yoga are Avidya (ignorance), Asmita (egoism), Raga (desire or attachment), Dvesha (repulsion or aversion), and Abhinivesha (fear of dying or clinging to life).

How does Kleshas affect my daily life?

These afflictions often manifest as negative emotions or behaviors that can cause stress, anxiety, dissatisfaction, and other psychological disturbances. By recognizing these patterns within ourselves, we can work towards overcoming them.

Can anyone practice Kleshas Yoga?

Absolutely! Anyone interested in personal growth and improving their mental well-being can benefit from comprehending and practicing the teachings of the Five Kleshas.

Do I need any prior experience to understand Kleshas Yoga?

No prior experience is required. However, having some knowledge about basic Yogic philosophy could enhance your insight into the concepts.

How long does it take to overcome these afflictions?

Overcoming these afflictions is a continuous process that varies from person to person. It involves consistent practice and deep self-reflection.

What if I struggle to understand or overcome these Kleshas?

It’s perfectly normal to face challenges in this journey. Consider seeking guidance from a knowledgeable yoga instructor or mentor who can provide you with personalized advice and support.

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About Ivana Naskova

Ivana Naskova is an accomplished author who has a passion for both writing and reading. Additionally, she has over nine years of experience working as an astrological specialist. Her love for spirituality, yoga, and meditation is what keeps her centered, calm, and fulfilled. She is dedicated to assisting you in exploring the spiritual aspects of the world and achieving greater happiness. Follow me: Instagram | LinkedIn

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