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The Kleshas: An introduction

One of the things I absolutely love is when I receive a DM from one of our SolTribe asking questions about yoga philosophy. Most recently, a former student and dear friend sent me a post from another creator about the kleshas. She was wondering if I had ever heard of them because she had not.

But she actually had during our teacher training!

This was a great reminder why I love teaching every year AND why one thing that I teach during teacher training is to revisit the texts annually. Every time you return to a text, depending on where you are currently in your life, you are able to learn more than before. And be reminded of what you may have forgotten.

That being said, bookmark this blog post to come back to later because we are diving into the kleshas - and I want you to come back to review them when you are having a rough go of it.

What even are the kleshas?

The short of it: the kleshas are the reason we suffer.

The longer version: We are all taught to connect to the outside world in order to determine our place in the world. Trying to define ourselves based on the outside, ever changing world means that when things that are out of our control happen (which, as I’m sure you’ve experienced, happens more times than not), we are completely derailed along with it. This can be pinpointed by the kleshas.

The kleshas are all individual, but also go together. Avidya (not knowing) leads to the others, while simultaneously the others in part cause the not knowing of yourself. (avidya).

Why do I need to know the kleshas?

The kleshas are the reason we suffer. When you are able to identify why you suffer, then you can do what you need to prevent it.

But, I hate to break it to you, it’s not an easy fix. It is simple though.


The eight limbs of yoga are the only things you need to overcome the kleshas. It is the framework whether you are suffering in relationships, work, money, or life in general.

Let’s get into the klesha

Avidya (not knowing)

This first klesha is what happens when you forget who you truly are - the inner light of awareness that is never changing. Avidya is tied to being flooded with the ever changing world and believing that you, too, are part of the changes.

Asmita (defining who you THINK you are)

Avidya (not knowing) leads us to define self incorrectly. This is when you define yourself as your body, thoughts, and emotions. With the practice of yoga, you find that you are in fact not any of those things.

Raga (chasing pleasure)

In defining ourselves wrongly, we notice what we like and begin wanting to experience more of what we like. This further deepens our belief that we are in fact the pleasant person who shows up when we get what we like and…

Dvesha (avoiding pain)

We are also the frustrated person who didn’t get to avoid the things we don’t want to experience again. Both raga and dvesha are linked to memory and what we recall as pleasurable and painful experiences. Both also make it difficult to move on with your life when the pleasure ends or the fear of pain again takes over our life.

Abhinivesha (fearing death/ change)

Fearing death or change lives in the subconscious and is what links to fight, flight, freeze, or fawn. Knowing that death is part of life, we are more afraid of losing the attachment to our body, our comfort, and our deep seated beliefs about ourselves and others.

This is just a very brief overview of the kleshas. Simply coming back to your yoga sadhana (daily practice) is the first step to weakening the kleshas in order to live a life without suffering.

Want to go a little deeper on the kleshas? Check out Deborah Adele’s new book, The Klesha: Exploring the Elusiveness of Happiness and Nicolai Bachman’s The Path of the Yoga Sutras.

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