Several years ago I traveled out of town to witness for myself a “realized” being. I don’t know what I expected but she was super low key even though she was placed on a high pedestal. I didn’t sense energy coming off of her or see a huge aura. She just seemed liked a pleasant, plump Indian woman. The friend who brought me had been visiting with her for several years, catching her during these "world tours." He went up to speak with her and that is when she asked; “how is your sadhana?” Sadhana refers to your practice of yoga. That includes all the tenets, not just asana. So I ask you today; “How is your sadhana?”
Of course your response might then be, what does sadhana entail? Strictly defined it is a spiritual practice. If we believe that Yoga (with a capital Y) is a path to spiritual enlightenment then having a spiritual practice would fall in line. Now before anyone begins bristling at the possibility this might become a religious discourse, please don't close your mind just yet. One of the beautiful aspects of Yoga is you are invited to have your own beliefs. In fact, some famous names in Yoga are unabashed Christians (Paramahansa Yogananda) and some are Hindus. I am likely neither. At this point in the game, let's just assume you have a belief in SOMETHING and leave it at that. And even if you don't, we can still have this wonderful practice. You will find that very little of the yogi life has to do with how well you perform downward facing dog.
One of the main things we can work with is from The Yoga Sutras and it's called the Eight Limbs of Yoga. These are painted in Sanskrit up on the walls of our studio. I encourage you to pick up a copy of the Yoga Sutras. There are many translations from the original Sanskrit and one will speak to you. For our purposes today, I will not run through the Eight Limbs. I recommend doing a Google search and seeking out PDFs for more details. You'll be surprised at what you find but the main gist runs through all of them.
Our focus here is understanding the daily practice of a yogi. Guided by the Eight Limbs we begin each day rededicated to living in such a way that gets us closer to stillness of the mind, that usually means sitting for meditation. For some however, that might mean starting with an asana (pose) practice. An asana practice might be followed by a pranayama or breathing practice before settling down for meditation. Note that all this can take place in two hours or as little as 45 minutes. Each practitioner must determine their own needs. This is why working with a teacher can be so important. A student might start off needing a very strict practice to understand the fluctuations of both body and mind before being able to sit quietly.
When I became a teacher I went to a 30 day teacher training retreat and really began to understand how loud my mind was and how fidgety my body was. Morning meditation was challenging because while my mind was just waking up, my body wanted to get up and run around. Evening meditation was easier physically because I'd sort of let my body run out all of its jitters but my mind was active and wanted to talk at me. I had to learn to settle my body as well as settle my mind. Today this is easier but I still prefer a morning meditation to an evening one!
And so we go through the day. How do we stay in line with the Yamas and Niyamas? There is an opportunity for self study (svadyaya) and truth (satya). When in conversations with others, are you standing in your truth as you speak truth? How about when taking part in an asana (pose) class, can we practice Bramacharya (right energy) and non-harming (ahimsa)? There are so many places in the day to poke your head up through the clouds of automatic actions and check in on yourself.
If we have not been truthful or have in some way been harmful we don't have to shame ourselves or pay some kind of penitence, we just need to become more aware and awake to our behaviors. We cannot change that which we cannot recognize. There is a good chance when we sit in meditation we will see with glaring clarity all the places we have been weak in the Yamas and Niyamas and that's okay. This is progress. If you are new to this practice you shouldn't be surprised that thoughts are coming thick and fast. If you are seeking serenity and are willing to change, let the thoughts arise. Notice the thoughts, perhaps even write them down at first so you can get them fully out into the open.
In the practice of pranayama/breathing you will start to notice places where the breath does not move. With focus and effort you will eventually get the breath to move into some dark corners of the body which may unearth things you never knew about yourself. Maintain courage and continue your practice and explore further. The same will be true with the practice of pratyahara or withdrawal of the senses. As you remove external stimuli and all that's left is your inner truth, you will be left to face it. Get in there with klieg lights! Remember, we're going for the jewels of serenity, truth and enlightenment.
With time and awareness you will come to know yourself in a way you never thought possible. Some aspects of yourself you will not like and wish to change and some aspects you will come to love and want to enhance. Be patient with yourself, take a daily dose of compassion for yourself and others who do not have a sadhana and stay on the path of your own spiritual journey.