Your heart skips a beat. You see an invitation to something that sounds just perfect for you. It has been in your thoughts lately, maybe just at the back of your mind. But it definitely sounds appealing to you.

When was the last time you felt like this? Was it a retreat, a course, a concert event, or something that just called to you? You can imagine the joy it would bring you to go. So, you start to investigate it.

But… you talk yourself out of it. The dates don’t work, the time commitment is too big it costs too much, the teacher isn’t the one you want, you are waiting for something else. You don’t follow through.

Why? We sabotage experiences that may open us to new ideas, joy, and satisfaction, while validating our choice not to attend. We tell ourselves that we can’t make it work. It is too difficult.

Yoga calls this Maya. It is the illusion of the material world. We think things are a certain way because of how we are relating to the world around us. Maya “represents the perceptions created by one’s beliefs, senses and upbringing – things that he/she or society in general hold to be true” (Yogapedia). We shrink back from life-giving experiences every time we are trapped in “Maya”. This recoil shows up in 3 specifics ways, called Maya Malas.

Anava Mala

This is a contraction of the Heart Chakra. We think that we are alone and that no one can understand what is going on in our lives. We feel isolated and insecure. There is an element of unworthiness when we are in this state. We make up stories about why we can’t have what we want. We engage in self pity.

We might discount ourselves from taking a course by saying that we aren’t ready for it, or that we are not smart enough to experience that kind of learning.

CURE: We need to reach out and connect with people. By doing so, we lift ourselves out of self isolation and quit being a victim of our own destructive beliefs. By sharing our thoughts with even one trusted person, we gain a perspective outside of the story we have made up in our heads. Often, we just need to hear ourselves say it aloud to understand how ridiculous our beliefs are. Everyone feels inadequate sometimes, and we can escape feeling this way by trying new things. In most cases we learn that we are actually quite capable.

Mayiya Mala

This is a contraction of the Third Eye Chakra. We judge ourselves by comparing to those around us. We may criticize someone else’s audacity to “put themselves out there in the world” while we righteously play small. Or vice versa. This Mala has us compulsively measuring ourselves to decide whether we are inferior or superior to those around us.

For example, we might choose not to attend an event because we doubt the qualifications of the presenter, thinking that they really have nothing to offer us. Or, contrarily we may assume that we are “out of their league” and we wouldn’t understand their lingo anyhow.

CURE: We need to embrace the critical nature of our minds in a more positive way, to help us move forward with an open mind. Allow our criticism to become inquiry. Why am I so judgemental of this? Why am I scared? Am I really that different? See the fear that is trapping us in our beliefs.

Karma Mala

This is a contraction of the Sacral Chakra/Personal Power Chakra. It is our failure to take action. We procrastinate, don’t get organized on time and miss out. Even if we do get around to sign up, then we don’t participate fully, don’t do the homework, or allow ourselves to invest in the knowledge. That way, we never have to fail. We validate our actions by saying that we didn’t get around to it. We save ourselves from the possibility of not succeeding.

Have you ever missed out on something because you just let the deadline pass? Or made up some excuse about how you weren’t set up to succeed at something?

CURE: Yes, this inaction prevents us from failing. BUT it also prevents us from succeeding. Don’t they say that the most successful people have overcome huge failures in their past, and that they learned from every one of them? Learn to give yourself the grace to fail so that you have the opportunity to succeed. What are you saying no to? What are you not taking action on? Perhaps you could let fear motivate you instead of freeze you. What small step could you take?

Mala Chakra Contraction Cure
Anava Mala Heart Love
Connected to your higher self
Withdrawing Connection
Mayiya Third Eye Wisdom
Connected to your mind
Judgement Empathy
Karma Sacral Personal Power
Connected to your body
Lack of Action Action

When you recognize the crazy ways you self sabotage, you have a huge opportunity to change the pattern. Observe the ways that your mind tries to talk you out of something that you desire. You can identify which Maya Mala is trying to trap you, and you can choose a cure. Do you need to reach out, find empathy, or take action? The first time will feel scary but that is how you change patterns. You do the scary thing. You prove to yourself that you are capable. The reward is two-fold. You get to have the experience that you desired, and the next time the Maya Mala appears you will have much less fear about choosing to cure it rather than succumb to it.

Ahh…the sweet self inquiry that yoga illuminates. Life becomes fuller and more enjoyable when we get out of our own way.

I loved this article on Chakras and the sounds that accompany them. Practices like this help us clear away the stuff that serves the self sabotage.


Jill Novak Yoga is working to support your escape from Maya Malas with programs that will help you feel successful. Get out of inaction, drop your judgement and connect. There is a program to suit you: drop-in classes, yoga teacher training, habit evolution courses, and private yoga therapy. All the options are at jillnovakyoga.com.