Discussion of the Kleshas continues with Raga and Dvesah. (Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras discuss the Kleshas in Chapter 2, verses 3-9.) Raga and Dvesah arise from opposite ends of a spectrum and both describe behaviours that distract us from knowing our selves better. As with all the Kleshas, they obscure our true understanding in quite powerful ways.
Raga describes that sense of want, desire that is beyond what we need, in order to create a sense of inner security. We feel unwilling to let go and try either to cling onto or to re-create the pleasant feeling. I suspect we can all find our Raga trigger of choice (Chocolate anyone? How about another glass of wine!) Unhealthy desires lead to a sense of craving as opposed to feeling content.
Dvesah indicates negative emotions we connected with unpleasant, fearful, or painful events, e.g. behaviours such as avoidance, judgement, or hatred. Some of our habitual reactions can be triggered by natural animal instinct to avoid danger. But we need to be prepared to let go of such reactions when they serve no positive purpose anymore. We need to know when to dismantle our barriers. This can be a lot easier said than done! For many of us, our barriers were erected so long ago, we do not even notice they are there anymore. And then we wonder why we feel disconnected to others, who read and heed our Do Not Enter sign that we forgot was there.
We can take awareness of these Kleshas onto our mats and notice those asanas that we enjoy and would like to do more of and those asanas which would never feature in our own personal practice. Do we gravitate toward ones we feel we execute well, or that energise us? Or perhaps ones that help us relax? Do others confront us with our limits of strength and flexibility that we would rather not be reminder of or which make us feel exposed to injury and bring tension into the body?
Such reflections can grow your practice and your understanding of yourself. Be open and honest with yourself, without judgement. Learn when the feelings you have are constructive and helpful (an asana really may be too difficult without modification) and when they are reinforcing unhelpful behaviours. And don’t be afraid to reach out for a helping hand. You will likely find others with similar experiences who can share helpful insights with you.
Ruth is a yoga therapist and yoga teacher based in Cheltenham, UK. She emphasises yoga as a tool for well-being, for individuals and in her classes, in person or via zoom.