Yoga Sadhana: Practice Makes Perfect
Malas by Japa Mala Beads
Anyone watching professional sporting events can’t help being inspired by the athletes’ dedication to perfection. We all know that they have gotten where they are through hard work and practice, practice, practice. As yogis, we are familiar with the importance of practice. In his Yoga Sutras (I:12), Patanjali stated that practice, or abhyasa, was one of two ways to still the waves of the mind. This echoes Krishna’s instruction to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita (VI:35).
Like abhyasa, sadhana is often translated as practice, but it connotes something more. Sadhana is dedicated daily yoga practice with the quest for perfection. Yogi Bhajan often told his students that it took 40 days to change a habit or adopt a new one, and that through sadhana, “You can change your destiny.” This quest or journey inspires some yogis to complete a teacher training or to go on retreat. But we can embark on the journey of sadhana without ever leaving home, by setting an intention, committing to it, and following through with diligent practice.
Before beginning a 40-day sadhana, create a structure to support it. What is your aim? You may wish to establish a daily meditation or asana practice, or to work with a specific issue such as a harmful habit or a physical challenge.
Once you’ve identified a goal, decide what practice/s will help you reach it. You might, for example, begin your daily sadhana by chanting to clear your physical and energetic space, then continue with sun salutations, and close with pranayama and meditation.
Reserve a specific time of day for sadhana. Just before dawn is ideal. This is the time of vata, the dosha associated with light, movement, and subtlety, when yogic practices can “land” deeply. Mornings are quiet, and your mind hasn’t yet been snared by the cares of the day.
Select a space. If you don’t already have a space at home used for asana or meditation, set aside an area that feels inspiring to you. The space should be clean and inviting—no clutter, drafts, ringing phones, etc.
Outline your routine and make it easy to follow by writing it down so that you won’t need to make decisions once your practice is underway. Decisions engage the mind—aim to make your sadhana as natural and uninterrupted as breathing. In a similar vein, invest in a timer. It doesn’t have to be fancy as long as it doesn’t tick to distraction. A timer liberates you from the urge to check the clock.
Consider sealing your sadhana by journaling about it afterward. What did you notice, not just during the practice, but throughout the day? Doing this helps you strengthen your inner vision and trains the mind to observe with non-attachment, or vairagya.
As your sadhana progresses, you may be surprised by unexpected benefits. You might find yourself feeling more relaxed and energized. Cravings may lose their grip on your thoughts. You feel grounded throughout the day. Sadhana becomes a touchstone that you carry with you, and its effects ripple outward into all areas of your life.
Do you have a daily sadhana? How have you benefited?