Sadhana: The daily practice of yoga
Our yoga practice often feels like a mirror to the rest of our life. The challenges we go through during a set or meditation require grit and stamina; determination and humility. When successful, we feel lifted with grace and gratitude. As we pay closer attention to the microscopic details we find more and more complexity to the processes happening in our minds and our bodies. And like many other practices, or disciplines, it’s imperative that we are consistent, taking it one day at a time and building a little more toward our goal. The term “sadhana” means discipline or daily practice and we can benefit greatly from having a strong sadhana. So how do we develop one?
Well, for some of us lucky ones, this could be a byproduct of our zealous enthusiasm, the feeling of excitement over taking a yoga class every day or the energy picked up from a great retreat can carry over into creating a habit of daily practice almost by accident. That’s wonderful but remember “sadhana” is a “discipline,” too, and just like the natural flows of energy and life, there will be days when that enthusiasm wanes and needs to be bolstered with sheer force of will. This is what yoga is about. The microlevel of effort required to push through just one more sun salutation or frog pose and the macrolevel effort to just get started today.
How Shakti Pad can derail us
Whether you’re new to yoga or have been practicing for a while, eventually you may run into what we call “shakti pad.” It can manifest in multitude of ways: boredom of doing the same routine every day, angst over having a spiritual practice at all, the belief that you’ve done what you need to do and don’t need any more (wow what a beautiful ego). Regardless of what rationalization you give it, the result is the same: loss of sadhana. How long this lasts for is entirely up to you and it can take some serious introspection to get back into your yoga practice — or not.
Shakti pad is a very personal stage and a journey you will have to take on your own. But when you’re ready to come back to your daily practice, or for those who are just getting started on theirs, we have some tips for increasing the chance of sticking a solid sadhana.
Tips for maintaining a daily practice
- Tie it to something you already do. If you’d like your yoga practice to be as regular as, say, brushing your teeth, then try making it a part of that routine. Since you brush your teeth every day anyway: make it a habit to sit down for a meditation after it.
- Start small. Don’t bite off more than you can chew, as they say. A long deep breathing meditation is a great way to illustrate this concept, as you may start your one-minute breath feeling great, like you could do it forever, but by the 3rd breath you can’t sustain it. Instead of diving into a 2 and a half hour meditation right away, start with 3 minutes a day and build it up from there.
- Use the ambrosial hours to your advantage. Early in the morning and early in the evening are the best times to meditate. There is a natural flow to the day called a diurnal rhythm and your best bet will be to work with it rather than against it. Enjoy the natural stillness just before sunrise, before the birds sing their morning chorus, or the quiet serenity at dusk with a beautiful meditative practice.
- Have a sadhana buddy! At the end of the day, we ought to be accountable to ourselves, stoking that fire within. But until we get there, it will help to walk the path with a friend so you can motivate each other and keep up with your practice together.
- Start right now. Just get started. And if you miss a day, just get started again. There’s no need to wait until next week, the new moon, your birthday or the new year. There’s no need to beat yourself up over missing day 38 of a 40 day sadhana. Just accept it for what it is and pick it up again. Remember the purpose of yoga is to live gracefully and life will throw all kinds of situations–opportunities–for you to practice!
- Keep a journal. Even if you never read it, keep a record of what you did, how it felt, what you learned. Often, we lose the forest for the trees, not realizing the progress we are making on something we practice every day. You may be surprised to look back on this record in a month and see how well you’ve been doing.
As is the variety of life, spirituality and yoga, these concepts can be applied to most things you are trying to accomplish. Remember consistency is key and just keep up! You can get started today with something simple, try an alternate breathing pranayam for 3 minutes!