I.31 दु:खदौर्मनस्याङ्गमेजयत्वश्वासप्रश्वासा विक्षेपसहभुव:

duḥkha-daurmanasyāṅgam-ejayatva-śvāsa-praśvāsā vikṣepa-sahabhuvaḥ
duḥkha-daurmanasya-aṅgam-ejayatva-śvāsa-praśvāsāḥ vikṣepa-sahabhuvaḥ

“Pain, depression, and the agitation of the body and breath–inhalation and exhalation– accompany these disturbances.”

Commentators describe pain, depression, agitation of the body and breath as the recognizable symptoms that accompany the inner blocks–the manifestations of disturbance. Yet to some extent pain–duḥkha–is the ultimate disturbance. It is an umbrella term, in a way.

Duḥkha derives from dus, “bad,” + kha, “space,” and thus perhaps has a literal sense of “to be in a bad space.” Dictionary meanings are sorrow, unhappiness, pain. It can be translated as suffering. Daurmanasya derives from dus, “bad,” + manas, “mind,” and so has a literal sense of being in a painful state of mind. Translations are depression, melancholy, despair. The word has a kind of heavy, thudding sound to it, rather like a weighed-down or dark condition.

Aṅgam-ejayatva means the agitation or shaking of the body. A trembling body might indicate fear or anxiety, past or present pain. The breath in an agitated body will itself be uneven—it could be rapid, held, caught or jerky.

All these, then, are forms of duḥkha, suffering. As Bernard Bouanchaud mentions in the quote below, it is often duḥkha that brings us to the practice of yoga. In my own case, I know it is what has built the discipline of practice in me. My personality tends toward depression, and I have known no more powerful tool than yoga to help me with my predilection to heaviness of heart and hopelessness—in particular,  the experience of being stuck and knowing no way out. BKS Iyengar has been known to say that one cannot be depressed if one’s armpit-chest is open. I have great enthusiasm for opening the armpit-chest.

In Chapter II, Patañjali reflects on duḥkha at length, and he admonishes (II.16), heyam duḥkham anāgatam, “Avoid the pain to come.” This might be considered to be one of the great statements of purpose in Patañjali’s Yoga Sūtras. Yoga helps us lessen our suffering.

Arjuna, the great hero of the Bhagavad Gīta, suffers from existential pain. He dreads the upcoming battle in which he will be forced to fight his relatives. He sees no good outcome, and he cries out to Krishna:

“O Krishna, I see my own relatives here anxious to fight, and my limbs grow weak, my mouth is dry, my body shakes, and my hair is standing on end.” BG I.28-9

He throws down his bow, sits, refuses to fight. The rest of this beautiful work is Krishna’s answer to Arjuna. The answer is simple and yet not simple.

In the next section of sūtras (I.32-39), Patañjali offers alternate ways to approach obstacles and process pain. Each of these ways are practices of yoga–there is no one way to practice, as there is no one answer to the questions life sets us.

You are so young, so much before all beginning, and I would like to beg you, dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now.  –Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet #4 (thanks to Carrie Owerko for this quote and for asking the questions)


“I think these four can be observed when we are faced with major obstacles and present as symptoms that can be recognized by modern medical science. These are grief or sorrow; mental pain, dejection or despair; shakiness or tremors in the body; and laboured breathing.” –B.K.S. Iyengar, Core of the Yoga Sūtras, p. 96

“In life, the obstacles don’t necessarily appear to us as presented in the previous sūtra. Not many practitioners have felt, ‘I am experiencing false perception these days.’ The obstacles are like viruses. We can’t directly perceive their presence in our systems. We need to learn to recognize the symptoms. This sūtra presents the main symptoms of the obstacles.” –The Reverend Jaganath Carrera, Inside the Yoga Sūtras, commentary on I.31

“Freeing ourselves from suffering is one of the basic tenets of yoga. It is often recognizing our lack of well-being that brings us to yoga. Often, we do not know the source of our suffering.” –Bernard Bouanchaud, The Essence of Yoga, commentary on I.31

• What first brought you to yoga? What has helped you continue your practice?
• How do you use your yoga practice to free yourself from suffering? What actions in your life–perhaps you don’t think of them as yoga–help alleviate difficult symptoms when you have them?
• What disturbs you the most?
• How does body awareness help you with mind awareness?


neuter noun in compound

pain, suffering (from dus, “bad,” + kha, “space, axle-hole, aperture”)


neuter noun in compound

depression (from dus, “bad, + manas, “mind,” + -ya, suffix that makes an abstract noun)


neuter noun in compound

trembling of the body (from aṅg, “to walk, move about” + ejaya, “causing to shake,” + -tva, suffix that makes an abstract noun)


masculine noun in compound

inhalation (from śvas, “to breathe, to pant”)


masculine noun, 1st case plural

exhalation (from pra-, “in front, away,” + śvas, “to breathe, to pant”)


masculine noun in compound

disruption, disturbance (from vi-, “apart,”+ kśīp, “to throw”; throw about)


masculine adjective, 1st case plural

accompanying (from saha, “together,” + bhū, “to become”)

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