If you do a search on sadhana yoga, you will find many detailed explanations about what it is. According to the Spoken Sanskrit Dictionary the word sadhana loosely translates into “to attain or accomplish something”. In a most approachable definition, offered by the Siddha Yogi, Muktananda, sadhana yoga simply means “spiritual practice and transformation of consciousness”. The Siddha yogis follow the lines of Kashmiri Yoga, a yoga tradition which teaches that through consciously embracing and experiencing all aspects of our life we can transform ourselves. We do not have to conform to any tradition or adhere to any dogma.
All we have to do is live our lives as consciously as possible. That is the only attainment or accomplishment we really have to worry about – everything else takes care of itself from there. A spiritual approach to living is really about becoming more conscious of what you do and why, something which can guide you to your higher purpose. It also means taking a more active role in your life rather than simply being a passive recipient to whatever happens to come your way.
All we have to do is be conscious. That may sound somewhat obvious. Isn’t everyone conscious? The answer to that is, unfortunately, no. Certainly people walking around are conscious in the fact that they are not asleep in their beds, but most people are not very much aware of what they are doing at any given moment. As a matter of fact, it has been shown in one study that people’s minds wander about 47% of the time. Sadhana yoga is a more conscious and spiritual approach to living life, rather than just having a spiritualized practice that only happens on a mat or meditation cushion. Again, a spiritual approach to living does not mean we have to become vegetarian or even start practicing yoga asana (though either one is fine if that is what you want to do).
So, how do we develop our sadhana?
Start Eating Right
Let’s start with the very basics: food. How many people actually pay attention to what they are eating and why? We live in a fast food culture, even if we don’t actually eat fast-food per se. Think about how people eat these days. They always seem to be in a rush. People often shove food into their mouths without even paying attention to it, much less actually tasting and enjoying it. And people wonder why they have digestive issues. Food is one place where you can become more conscious. Pay attention when you are eating. Just taking a thoughtful moment to be grateful for your food is sadhana.
Everything you put into your mouth has an effect on your body. How much do you know about your food? Being mindful of what you put into your body is a part of consciously living. It is not as difficult to eat healthy as you might think it is – especially if you learn how to cook the right foods. You just need to give yourself a little time for the cooking and always keep the right ingredients on hand. Think about the rainbow of color that food has to offer us. In order to get a balanced diet of fruits and vegetables, you should eat a variety of color throughout the day. Adding lean protein and whole grain carbohydrates to your diet is also essential to a healthy metabolism.
Growing your own food is another way to be mindfully engaged, not only with what you are eating, but also with the power of the life-giving earth. Watching the process of food grow from seed to fruit can be awe-inspiring, something we might not think about as we are haphazardly picking through fruits and vegetables on a stand in the grocery store.
Tending Your Household
Mindfully taking care of your household is another aspect of living sadhana. Did you know that cleaning the house was once considered a sacred act of devotion? The household was something that was not just taken for granted, but rather it was something to be honored and thankful for. Today cleaning the home is just another dreaded chore for many people. As you clean your house, you can do so with focus and respect – it can even be an act of meditation.
Even the mindful and intentional placement of your household items is important. Look around your house. How is it organized? The act of sacredly arranging your home can liven up your living space in ways that might surprise you. You can even do something like learn the art of Feng Shui to invite more passion into your life.
Though there is no dogma around what type you should do, meditation is an important aspect of sadhana yoga. Because it is not particular to any religion or creed, you can approach your meditation from any perspective you want. You can focus on compassionate awareness or you can concentrate on an object. You can also practice objectively witnessing whatever arises in your mind. All that really matters about meditation is that you give yourself some time and space to withdraw from the external world and turn inward. And while if you are not careful, you might just have a spiritual awakening, you do not have to sit in meditation with the intention of it if that turns you off from even trying it.
If you need a more practical and compelling reason to begin a meditation practice, then let us turn to science for that reason. In a list of studies about a mile long, it has been proven by contemplative neuroscience that meditation restructures our brain. The research shows that after only eight weeks of a simple compassion meditation, not only were the meditators actually feeling more compassionate and less stressed, but also all of the areas of higher brain functioning – the prefrontal cortex, the hippocampus, and the temporo-parietal junction – showed increased grey matter density. So, decreased stress, more feelings of compassion, and overall higher brain-functioning – what more reason do you need to start meditating?
These are only a few ways to start living more consciously. Your sadhana is really just your personal way of embracing and living your life to the fullest.