How to Start a Sadhana Practice
If you’re craving a deeper connection to yourself and the divine, one way to cultivate it is through a daily spiritual practice. In the yoga tradition, the Sanskrit term for this kind of spiritual practice is sadhana—and its benefits are worth considering.
According to Kundalini Yoga teacher Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa, the cofounder and director of Golden Bridge Yoga in Los Angeles, a daily sadhana can improve your health and energy, unblock your creativity, and help you tap into your intuition so that you can live “from a more authentic place.” Although starting a daily sadhana requires time and commitment, it's easier to get started than you may think. Here are six ways to begin—and build—a home practice.
Do a Few Things to Purify Your Body & Mind
Gurmukh suggests five ways to purify your body and mind on a regular basis so that a daily sadhana—and in particular, a daily meditation practice—becomes more accessible:
- Practice Kundalini Yoga
- Move your body
- Eat an alkaline, plant-based diet
- Eliminate alcohol and recreational drugs
Create a Sacred Space
It’s also important to find a quiet place in your home to practice, Gurmukh says. Make the space feel sacred by building an altar or decorating with items that feel spiritually meaningful to you. Make sure you have a yoga mat to practice on and a comfortable meditation pillow to sit on for chanting, pranayama (yogic breathing practices), or silent meditation. Keep candles or incense nearby so that you can light them before you start your practice. “All of these elements can bring a quietness within,” she says.
Get Ready Before Sunrise
For thousands of years, yogis have been getting up before sunrise to do their sadhana because the time of day is considered to be sacred and infused with a sense of stillness and quietude. Gurmukh suggests taking a cold shower as soon as you wake up, to cleanse yourself, improve your circulation, and become alert.
Next, consider following a traditional recommendation from the Kundalini Yoga tradition: practice yoga for about 30 minutes before meditation. Kundalini Yoga routines often include kriya practice, which Gurmukh defines as “something you do for a definite outcome.” When you’re starting a daily sadhana, she recommends doing the following kriya for nine minutes a day for 40 days in a row, to cultivate longevity.
A simple beginner practice is to sit with your spine comfortably erect on a chair or meditation cushion, close your eyes, and observe the flow of your breath. Another way to make a meditation practice more accessible, says Gurmukh, is to use a mantra and a pranayama technique. Traditionally, it is recommended that you find a qualified teacher who can tailor those practices to your individual needs. But regardless of what type of meditation you choose to practice, be gentle with yourself, says Gurmukh. “Meditation is an art, and it takes practice.”
Why is it important to meditate in the early morning? As mantra music artist and Kundalini yoga teacher Snatam Kaur Khalsa explained in an interview with Origin, “My spiritual teacher said, ‘Having a meditation practice’—sorry for saying this, but it makes a lot of sense—'is like cleaning the toilet bowl.’ Whether [you’re cleaning out] the traumas and dramas of the day before or 20 years before or maybe lifetimes before—you’re literally cleaning out the subconscious. It’s not only a service to your soul, but also a service to your family and to everything that you do.”
Find the Right Kind of Motivation
Now the question is, how do you make your sadhana sustainable? No matter how you design the details of your practice, the most important thing is to tap into the kind of motivation that will keep you going. As Snatam observes, “Some people talk about a daily practice, like, “Oh, I should be doing this, or I should be doing that.” It’s more like: once you’ve experienced the lightness and the joy that a daily practice brings, you’re addicted, you’re hooked. Why would you want to live life any other way once you’ve experienced that?”
A daily sadhana, Snatam recently told Omega, shows us how to "be our own source of inspiration and light," so that we can bring that light and inspiration to our families, our communities, and the world.
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© 2014 Omega Institute for Holistic Studies