Sadhana - My Personal Practice
“I often get asked about my own personal yoga practice, my daily practice or Sadhana. The word for practice in Sanskrit is Abhyasa which refers to a practice that aims at achieving a tranquil state of mind, and another word for a yogi is an Abhyasi. To be a yogi, you need to be a practitioner of yoga, you need to practice, you need to have a daily sadhana, it’s not an option. You do your Sadhana to stay healthy and stay sane, it’s like your daily hygiene, like taking a shower or brushing your teeth. And we need to practice from an interesting perspective, from the perspective of vairagya (detachment). Non-attachment to everything, non-attachment to who we are, to who we think we are, where we think we are going, how we feel, we just have to practice and observe our practice from this place of non-attachment. Because attachment keeps us stuck in our Samskaras (mental impressions left by thoughts, actions and intents), repetition, the whirlpool, the same thing over and over.
When we arrive on our mats and we practice we begin to see our attachments. As we learn to see clearly we begin to let go. Letting go can be a lengthy process, because as we start to let go we begin to discover layers upon layers of attachments.
The practice of yoga is really the art of learning to let go, to let go of all the things that are holding us back from realizing our true potential.”
This is a small glimpse of what we can learn about our practice from the Yoga Sutras:
Yoga Sutra 1.4 – Vrtti Sarupyam Itaratra Mistaken identity
This yoga sutra speaks to the truth that because our minds are connected to sensory perception, the mind spins the information it receives and filters it through our own past experiences, judgements and beliefs. As a result we see the world not as it is but as we are.
If the mind has a pleasant attitude toward an object, it experiences pleasure. If the mind has an unpleasant attitude toward an object, it experiences pain.
In essence, what this means is we are asleep to the divine self within and unaware of our true identity. We are awake in a false reality of distracted identity, seeing the world through filters created by samskaras (imprints and impressions left on the mind).
We all suffer from this crisis as we falsely identify with the ego leaving us feeling unsatisfied and searching for something more.
Is there a way out?
Sutra 1.12 - Abhyāsa vairāgyābhyāṃ nirodhaḥ
nirodhaḥ mastery; complete control, discipline, and restraint
Mastery of those (tat) – the activities of the mind – is cultivated through practice (Abhyasa) and detachment (vairagya)
Pantanjali has given us advice on practical living. In Sutra 1.2 we learn that Yoga is the ability to choose, focus and sustain but this requires commitment and in return we will experience inner peace - Sutra 1.3.
The solution to calm the spinning of the mind and to cultivate that one pointed mind is two fold in that we need to practice (abhyasa) and detach (vairagya).
Practice (abhyasa) reminds us that reflection is not enough, we need action, and the action needed is a dedicated and stable practice that will help us to cultivate a more focused and joyful state.
Viaragya (detachment) is absolutely necessary. There is a significant part of life that we cannot control and when we consciously understand this we are able to allow life to unfold in its own time.
This abhyasa-vairagya partnership is at the core of our yoga practice allowing us to move into action and let go on a daily basis.
Through this daily sadhana of abhyasa and vairagya we shine a light into our lives and we begin to clearly see the obstacles or mental states (kleshas) that cloud the mind and manifest in unwholesome thoughts and actions.
When we study deeper into the Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali, especially Chapter 2 – Sadhana Pada we will begin to understand the specific tools of attention that are used to cut away and remove the obstacles of the mind that are blocking the light of the sun within.
This includes the 8 limbs of yoga, or Ashtanga Yoga, but more on that in my next blog when we explore rung 1 and 2, the Yamas and Niyamas.
For now, set aside the time for your daily Sadhana.