“Oh, Aspirant, learn to practice until the last breath of your life.” Patanjali
The word Sadhana in Sanskrit means spiritual exertion towards an intended goal or the means of accomplishing something. According to Vedic teachings, that something is to live in a state of Self-realization, and any discipline or practice undertaken for ego-transcendence, freedom from suffering, or spiritual liberation is the final goal of life. We all want to live a happy life and the inherently difficult path of Sadhana is the way to live in the world yet remain above it. The Sages tell us that the resources available are immense, but that, as we are human beings, we are bound to stumble and make mistakes. Our True Nature exists; a burning desire for purification of the smaller, limited self is needed. This will allow us to understand that all of life is Sadhana.
It is worthwhile to consider first our daily habits and routines. The physical body needs to be attended to in a way that supports our spiritual intentions rather than creating discomfort and obstacles for us, and yoga philosophy suggests that we pay attention to a few basic things: sleep, food, breathing and exercise. Going to sleep on time, waking up on time, and getting as much sleep as we really need may seem simple, but any parent of a teenager can explain what this principle looks like when it’s out of balance. Neither exhaustion nor inertia support the spiritual path. Nourishing the body with food that is sattvic, (fresh and unprocessed), eating the right amount, at the right time, with the proper frame of mind, all are a must. Further, eating food that is prepared by someone who loves us or by us for ourselves or another is considered a practice in its own right. Pausing before a meal and saying grace of any sort is helpful. Breath awareness is much overlooked. Deep diaphragmatic breathing stabilizes the nervous system and is essential for clarity of mind. Next time you are upset, notice what happens to your breathing pattern. Implementing even the simplest pranayama practices can have huge benefits. Lastly, it is important to find an exercise and movement program that suits us. We don’t have to train like Olympic athletes. Hatha Yoga is particularly effective as it addresses strength, flexibility, endurance and alignment. If we are gentle and honest with ourselves we will discover where we need to make adjustments in our daily routines and why. Intentionally making an effort to improve these areas of our lives is the first step of Sadhana.
Next time we will consider Sadhana in the form of mediation and charity work.