We’ve heard our teachers talking about it, we know the hashtags (#yogaeverydamnday), but how many of us practice yoga on the daily?
Firstly, I’d like to step away from the asana obsession and take a more traditional look at yoga. From Patanjali’s sutras, we are told that there are 8 limbs of Raja yoga*:
Yama – non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, chastity and non-possessiveness
Niyama – cleanliness, contentment, persistence, study of self, attending to unchanging reality/god
Asana – posture
Pranayama – controlling of breath and life force
Pratyahara – sensory withdrawal
Dharana – concentration (becoming one-pointed)
Dhyana – meditation, uninterrupted flow of consciousness
Samadhi – state of bliss and being here, often called i-am-ness
These steps are usually viewed in a chronological order, moving from one onto the next, though some are practiced in conjunction with each other, eg asana with pranayama. The goal of yoga, if there is a goal, is to attain the state of bliss that arises from being fully present and conscious. There is also a further state, which transcends individual ego to become an expansive consciousness, existing without physical barriers. Needless to say, I am a little fuzzy on the details, as I am yet to experience such a state (if an “I” can experience it).
During my yoga teacher training, our teachers spoke extensively on the importance of sadhana (practice). Establishing a daily sadhana, usually consisting of asana, pranayama and dharana, gives a steady base to a practitioner. Ideally, those following the path of yoga practice 24 hours a day, always studying the self, always remaining diligent, watching the mind, etc. For those of us who are outside an ashram (learning centre) environment, this is more of a challenge. For everyday practitioners like you and me, we need a sadhana.
A sadhana can be designed by yourself or a teacher. It should not be changed for at least 21 days, meaning that you practice the same thing every day, and give it at least 21 days to be effective. Sadhana is the rock and foundation of your practice. There is nothing to say that you cannot also attend classes, or have yoga play time as well! The purpose of sadhana is to provide consistency. My Swami (Shantimurti Saraswati) says it pays to be ritualistic about it. Same time, same place, same movements, breaths, same japa (repeating mantra), even same incense every day. This is the best way to make progress with yoga. It provides a still point from which to observe everything else that moves in your life. No matter the ups and downs of your day, the sadhana remains the same.
It helps to minimise mood swings, allows you to discover new things in familiar postures, provides an opportunity to observe your mind and how it reacts, including the invention of boredom! Even boredom is an opportunity for learning and growth, for observance of self. Be with the boredom. Get to know it, be fascinated by it. Interesting things may arise. Or they may not!
I will do another post on how to design a sadhana, things to include etc, so stay tuned for that!
Peace and Light
*There are 6 systems of yoga: Hatha, Raja, Bhakti, Jnana, Kriya, Karma. All follow different paths for self-realisation. The “yoga” we are most familiar with in the West is practice of asanas found in Hatha and Raja yogas, usually accompanied by controlling breath (pranayama) and followed by meditation, or more accurately, concentration (dharana).