Please read Lisa’s article on Sādhana in the April 2017 edition of Dallas Yoga Magazine, too! This is an edited, condensed version of below.
Why Practice Daily Sadhana?
(Sanskrit: sādhana)… literally “a means of accomplishing something”, is an ego-transcending spiritual practice. It includes a variety of disciplines … that are followed [in] order to achieve various spiritual or ritual objectives.
In particular, sādhana can refer to a tantric liturgy or liturgical manual, that is, the instructions to carry out a ritual.
The historian N. Bhattacharyya provides a working definition of the benefits of sādhana as follows:
Religious sādhana, which both prevents an excess of worldliness and molds the mind and disposition (bhāva) into a form which develops the knowledge of dispassion and non-attachment. Sādhana is a means whereby bondage becomes liberation.
Iyengar (1993: p. 22) in his English translation of and commentary to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali defines sādhana in relation to abhyāsa and kriyā:
Sādhana is a discipline undertaken in the pursuit of a goal. Abhyāsa is repeated practice performed with observation and reflection. Kriyā, or action, also implies perfect execution with study and investigation. Therefore, sādhanā, abhyāsa, and kriyā all mean one and the same thing. A sādhaka, or practitioner, is one who skillfully applies…mind and intelligence in practice towards a spiritual goal.
Kriyā (in Sanskrit “action, deed, effort”)… most commonly refers to a “completed action”, technique or practice within a yoga discipline meant to achieve a specific result. Another meaning of Kriya is an outward physical manifestation of awakened kundalini, such as a spontaneous body movement related to Kundalini energy flow. O Kriya Shakti is “a power of thought” said to be greatly studied by yogis.
I want to share with you why Sadhana is a significant part of your daily practice in your development as a yogi and as a human being, living your 100 or so years on this planet. This practice is not something to check off a list, and it is very different than asana or meditation. Sadhana is done with specific intention to grow and awaken to the Flow.
There is a common saying, “You are what you eat.” In yoga, there is another saying. “Your habits define you.”
Kundalini Yoga recognizes every soul as perfect, pure and Divine. There is nothing to redeem or purify at the soul-level, isn’t this great news!? The soul is complete and beautiful as it is. But this reality “life” is based on our habits. Our habits define us to ourselves and to other people. By our habits, we live in peace, joy and happiness. By our habits, we create suffering and pain. When we change our habits, everything around us can change.
For many years I held a forty day spiritual practice over Lent (a sadhana, as I now know). The first thing I ever did for a spiritual practice was simply to give up sugar for 40 days. The depth of my practices have definitely deepened, but the intention is always to do the Sadhana as an intention to connect to something greater than ourselves. Read on to learn more.
In this article I have listed some ideas for you and many important details on this topic to get you started on your daily practice. My hope is that you begin this journey, or deepen one you already have and continue to develop this practice daily until your life in this Earth realm is complete!
~ Lisa Ware
What is this sadhana thing anyway?
- A sadhana is simply a daily spiritual practice designed to allow oneself to turn inward and perceive life as it truly is.
But I’m not religious at all, why would I want to do a spiritual practice?
- Being spiritual is not about religion at all – although it might mean you have a personal relationship to God, the Divine, the Universe, the Infinite, Consciousness, Allah, the Divine, Source, The Great Mystery, Goddess, Shiva, Shakti… whatever word you like to use to describe something that is omniscient.
- Many people find connecting with nature is an innately spiritual experience, it makes them feel more in tune with life, and with themselves.
- A spiritual practice is simply a practice that connects you to your Highest Self. That is – your ego self, which is small, limited and separate from everything else, to your Higher Self, which is infinite and connected to the great I AM.
Ideas for a daily of 40 day Sadhana:
- A mantra
- A chant
- A specific daily meditation
- A specific yogic asana practice like surya namaskar (sun salutation)
- A particular kriya (set yoga practice which can include asana, pranayama, meditation, asana, mantra, mudra…)
- Creative visualization
- Affirmations, said with intention
- Reading a spiritual text
- A daily walk in nature
Why do we practice a sadhana for forty days?
- A sadhana doesn’t have to be for forty days, it may be just every single day for an indeterminate length of time, or it may be a set time that you decide.
- Forty days is usually the minimum, it’s a number with significance in many spiritual texts, including the Bible, as Lent is for forty days.
- One reason for this is when you do something every single day for forty days, it ingrains the new discipline into our brains; this is the study of neuroplasticity! The grooves in the brain get re-grooved or REALLY GROOVY! These new grooves (sadhana) can replace old bad ones (samskaras) and this literally now becomes part of who you are!
What are the benefits of practicing a sadhana for forty days?
- SELF LOVE ~ Love your self. LOVE YOUR SELF. No one can ever love you more than you. This is the calibration for all other love to come in. Ebb and Flow, baby!, this is the cycle of giving and receiving.
- Commitment ~ a sadhana may only be three, five or ten minutes a day, but just doing it every single day no matter what says that you care about your spiritual evolution. Put yourself first. Do not cancel on you, do this regularly and you are growing and evolvoing.
- Discipline ~ the ego is shrewd, clever and tricky. It and will use all kinds of excuses to try and keep you from doing your sadhana. Doing it every single day builds discipline as we learn not to listen to the mind and the ego, and to just DO what feels good because we know we truly want it. Every thought that feels good is bringing us closer to our Inner Guidance System and attracting more feeling good thoughts!
- Evolution ~ you’re either changing and growing as a person, or you’re stagnating. “When you rest you rust”, said the women’s movement entrepreneur, Mary Kay Ash. Do you want life to imporve? Doing a daily sadhana is one small way to make sure that every single day is just a little bit better than the last one, no matter what else is going on in your life.
- Foundation ~ just 10 minutes. A sadhana is like planting a tiny little seed in the garden. Every day you practice you water it and it grows… and as you get used to dedicating ten minutes a day to your evolution and growth, you’ll naturally discover you want to create more and more time for yourself! That tiny seed blossoms, grows and bears fruit and one day you turn around and discover your whole life has become a sadhana. (read more about Sadhana in the book BE HERE NOW, by Ram Dass)
I want to start my own sadhana. How do I start?
- Set an intention based on one aspect of yourself you want to evolve, or what aspect you’d like to let go of.
- Find a practice that supports that, ideas below.
Examples of Sadhanas:
- Want to open your heart and increase the amount of compassion you feel for other people? Try a heart opening practice.
- Want to find greater mental clarity, increase your intuition and open your third eye? Try a simple Om meditation.
- Want to get rid of old mental and emotional behaviour patterns? Try a chakra cleansing practice.
- Want to build a daily yoga asana practice? Practice surya namaskar (sun saluations) every single day, starting with five a day and building up to 30 a day. Or more.
- Want to be a part of something greater? Train for the Global Mala, which is happening September 20th and 21st around the world. http://www.globalmala.com/
- As a yoga teacher you may also host a Global Mala!
For those who want to seriously practice kriyas, it is time to formulate a specific sadhana. The result is accelerated spiritual evolution. Sadhana becomes a powerful method to achieve this result.
There are three important aspects of sadhana:
The first stage of sadhana is to choose a practice. Even the most simple sadhana will be challenging to the newcomer. Consider the sadhana of lighting a candle every night, then immediately blowing it out. Nothing more or nothing less. Do this for ninety days. You will observe the mind coming up with every reason why you shouldn’t do it and every excuse why you missed a few (or many) nights. Yet by accepting it as a sadhana, you make a choice to do it and it becomes a spiritual practice.
The second aspect of sadhana relates to regularity, doing something at periodic, planned intervals. This typically would be at the same time in the same place everyday. Yet it doesn’t have to be everyday. This sadhana practice could be every other day or every Tuesday and Thursday, as long as it is regular. Doing practice irregularly is not sadhana. Once the schedule is selected, the challenge of sadhana is to stick with it and not to miss your own appointed time. This is the first measure of commitment, commitment to your Self time. This creates a strong sense of Self Worth.
The third measure is to make a commitment for a specific period of time; that is, choose do the practice for thirty days, sixty days, ninety days, 108 days or even 1000 days. Notice the level of your success, then take a break. Decide upon another practice (or the same one) and make another commitment, or add onto your already established practice.
Choice and regularity are not the only aspects of sadhana. If they were, getting dressed every day would be a sadhana. We choose what clothes to wear and we do it. Dressing could be a sadhana, yet it is just a mechanical action done every day. The final key to a successful sadhana is conscious intention. This is where the power of the UNIVERSAL SOURCE is generated and this moment is when the intention becomes an aspiration.
Many yogis chose a simple action, the practice of “neti”, the washing of the nostrils with distilled saline water. For this to be a sadhana, however, rather than just another cleansing action like washing the body in the shower, your intention is necessary.
With these words not only is an intention created around the practice, but an aspiration for each day. You will gradually become more consciously aware of having a spiritual goal. Perhaps that ultimate goal is samadhi, of being a spiritually enlightened being.
Simple statements to set intention:
- This is all I have to do to evolve spiritually.
- This is the only practice I must do to spiritually grow.
- This is the only act that I need to do to develop as a spiritual being.
- This is all I have to do for the benefit of self, other, and the world.
Initially, it will challenge the mind and the ego. The spiritual “you” may even win the battle, but to keep it from becoming mechanical, or something that you “check off the list” setting an intention is required. Pick an intention from above.
Candle Sadhana Exercise:
- Choose a practice (candle exercise or another)
- Pick regular time or set a specific period/interval to do the sadhana.
- Make a commitment.
- Set an intention.
- Light your Sadhana candle.
- Blow out the candle. Immediately.
- Doing no other practice than this will, you begin a transformation process that will alter your life.
One immediate result of sadhana is the remembrance of who we are rather than “what we are” during the brief moments the sadhana takes. Repetitively remembering our inner essence nature is at the heart of all spiritual growth. One day we will remember our spiritual essence in every moment. That is the realized state, Samadhi.
Start with a simple sadhana to build your confidence and commitment. Add another sadhana in addition to this one. Expand your sadhana time to include many practices that bring you joy like yoga asana or other organic movement/dance, chanting or japa mala (inner mantra), cleansing Ayurvedic actions and kriya practices.
Talk to a spiritual leader, Ayurvedic doctor or advanced yogic practitioner to help you choose an appropriate kriya, chant/mantra or pranayama.
Practicing a particular kriya, chant or mantra every single day for the same amount of time. Based on the number of days you do this, here is how it will affect your habits:
40 Days: Practice every day for 40 days straight. This will break any negative habits that block you from the expansion possible through the kriya or mantra.
90 Days: Practice every day for 90 days straight. This will establish a new habit in your conscious and subconscious minds based on the effect of the kriya or mantra. It will change you in a very deep way.
120 Days: Practice every day for 120 days straight. This will confirm the new habit of consciousness created by the kriya or mantra. The positive benefits of the kriya get integrated permanently into your psyche.
1000 Days: Practice every day for 1000 days straight. This will allow you to master the new habit of consciousness that the kriya or mantra has promised. No matter what the challenge, you can call on this new habit to serve you.
Remember, a re-creating a new samakara is creating a habit. It is an unconscious re-grooving of the mind, the glandular system and the nervous system. We develop habits at a very young age. Some of them serve our Highest Good. Some of them do not. By doing a 40, 90, 120 or 1000 day special sadhana, you can rewire the brain and increase neuroplasticity. You CAN develop new, deeply ingrained habits that serve your Highest Good!
“One part of sadhana should stay constant long enough for you to master, or at least experience, the changes evoked by a single technique. Each kriya and mantra has its individual effects, although they all elevate you toward a cosmic consciousness. Learn to value the pricelessness of one kriya, and all others will be understood in a clearer light.”
Alan Verdegraal, “Tantra: The Magazine”, Issue #8, p22-23 Transcribed with permission of the author. Copyright 1994
The Law of Attraction
Yogi Bhajan, from The Aquarian Teacher, Level One Instructor. Page 150.