I’m 12 days away from completing my first 40 day Sadhana. 40 days of the same practice - asana, pranayama, meditation - on the days I want to practice, and the days I don’t. It’s been an enlightening experience, it’s challenged me, and it’s created a shift in the way I view my practice. In my short 5 years of practice I had never been instructed to complete a 40 day Sadhana - or even introduced to the idea. I can thank my great friend, Tom Jones, for introducing me to the wisdom upon returning from his latest YTT at The Practice Bali.
Sadhana translates to “disciplined and dedicated practice,” and Patanjali speaks to the specifics of practice in the Yoga Sutra’s - sa tu dirghakala nairantarya satkarasevito drdhabhumih (Y.S. 1.14). “It is only when the correct practice is followed for a long time, without interruptions and with a quality of positive attitude and eagerness, that it can succeed” (The Heart of Yoga).
This Sadhana has taught me to look at my practice from a macro perspective instead of so micro. I plan to practice for many years, and through those years I will practice in different seasons of the year, with and without physical injury, in different mental/emotional states, and as an evolved version of myself each day. For this reason, it’s important to look at practice in larger (40 day) blocks, instead of waking up and thinking, “what does my body and mind need today?” It’s great to be conscious of how we change day to day, moment to moment, and it’s equally important to look at a wider picture of our lives, and choose practices which fit. For example, let’s say the next couple of months I’m going to be training online, while still teaching public classes, and managing the back-end programming of the wellness retreat, Aro Ha, where I work. There’s a lot going on there, a lot of information to take in, and hopefully assimilate. Knowing this, I might chose a Sadhana revolving around opening the chest, and stimulating Pran Vayu, which governs our capacity to take outside information in. Or I’m coming off an extremely stressful quarter and haven’t slept well in weeks. I’d lean into a 40 day evening practice filled with forward folds, twists, long exhales and Yoga Nidra. All of these practices will stimulate my rest & digest response, encouraging better sleep. You get the point..
Having the same practice for this amount of time has allowed me to gain a much deeper understanding of the energetic, emotional, and physical effects of each piece of the practice. I am able to clearly notice how the practice affects me on days I feel great, uplifted, happy, and days I feel uninspired, lethargic, and low. It sheds light on the mornings where it feels like there’s a massive speed bump between me and my mat - and how I confront challenge and adversity the rest of that day.
I noticed after 20 days or so I would come to my mat and go into auto-pilot. I know the sequence, the breath count, the meditation. Once I was able to notice this mundane feeling in myself, I was able to see the teaching in that moment. How can I see each morning on my mat as the first time I’ve ever practiced? How can I treat this practice with as much reverence and eagerness as I did my first? And how can I bring these same fresh, child-like, eyes out into my day? Seeing every interaction or task, no matter how mundane or repetitive it may seem, as an opportunity to practice.
As I move towards the end of my first 40 day Sadhana, I’m taking the time to contemplate the landscape of my life as it is, and beginning to formulate my next 40 days. If you want to feel the true power of the Science of Yoga, put Patanjali’s words into action, “It is only when the correct practice is followed for a long time, without interruptions and with a quality of positive attitude and eagerness, that it can succeed.” Y.S. 1.14