Sadhana: what is it and why does it matter?

In the summer of 2016, I spent 40 days volunteering at an Kundalini Yoga ashram in the French countryside. Every morning before work I did 2.5 hours of Aquarian Sadhana, and every afternoon/evening on a break or after work I ended up by this river. I spent more hours than I can count sitting on the bridge over the waterfall pictured here. Those two daily practices moved me through one of the most difficult times of my life with so much more grace than I realized was possible.

Sadhana means daily spiritual practice. Check out this article for more information. Four years ago, I was convinced that I didn’t have time to do anything for myself every single day. It felt impossible. At the time, I taught children with ASD and spent most of my professional life helping them change their behaviors using the principles of behavioral modification. I made it to exercise and yoga classes several times a week and told myself that was enough, that it should keep me in a centered and balanced place.

A few months later, when I began my training in Kundalini Yoga, one of the requirements was that we complete a 40 day sadhana of at least 11 minutes/day. That, to me, felt completely overwhelming… how was I supposed to cram one more thing into my day?! My teachers encouraged me to take it slow, start with just 3 minutes a day of a practice that I absolutely loved. So I began chanting Ra Ma Da Sa every day for 3 minutes. Somewhere along the way, I realized that all my years helping my students make changes had prepared me perfectly to modify my own! So I embarked on a journey of self-study. I applied the principles of applied behavioral analysis to myself and taught myself to maintain a daily practice, bit by bit. I developed systems for rewarding myself (checking things off is so satisfying for me,) and began to feel the steadiness that sadhana imparts. Fast forward to today, and my daily practice is the cornerstone, and always at least 20 minutes, bare minimum. If I feel out of whack, and I take the time to recommit to (and sometimes repeat) my daily practice, it invariably helps me move back towards my center.

One of my teachers said that he does his sadhana (daily practice) every day so that he can run his day, instead of his day running him. That line resonated deeply and stayed with me, and describes the reason that I prioritize my sadhana. Is it always easy? Do I have magical self-discipline powers? No and no. What I do have is nearly 4 years experience of proof that when I do my sadhana, my life flows more smoothly and I feel better. That’s what gets me to my practices every day. Is it perfect? Nope. There have been a couple days this year when I’ve missed on part or all of my sadhana. And the best thing I do when I flub up? I focus on being as supportive and kind to myself as I tried to be to my students when they invariably had a lapse. Instead of blaming and getting upset with myself, I tell myself that it’s ok, life isn’t perfect and neither am I, but I’m going to get back to it and start again. After all, sadhana is a practice, and so is life.

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