Start with a seed. Ask,”what’s next?” Accept what comes.
Category Archives: Sadhana
“ As you love your own body, so regard everyone as equal to your own body. When the Supreme Experience supervenes, everyone’s service is revealed as one’s own service. Call it a bird, an insect, an animal or a man, call it by any name you please, one serves one’s own Self in every one of them. ”
—Anandamayi Maa, Ananda Varta Quarterly
Sri Anandamayi Maa (Bengali: শ্রী আনন্দময়ী মা) (30 April 1896 – 27 August 1982) was an Indian saint from Bengal. Swami Sivananda (Divine Life Society) described her as “the most perfect flower the Indian soil has produced.” Precognition, healing and other miracles were attributed to her by her followers. Paramhansa Yogananda translates Anandamayi as “joy-permeated”. This name was given to her by her devotees in the 1920s to describe what they saw as her habitual state of divine joy and bliss.
Anandamayi Maa never prepared discourses, wrote down, or revised what she had said. People had difficulty transcribing her often informal talks because of their conversational speed, further the Bengali manner of alliterative wordplay was often lost in translation. A devotee, Brahmachari Kamal Bhattacharjee, however made attempts to transcribe her speech before audio recording equipment became widely available in India.
A central theme of her teaching is “the supreme calling of every human being is to aspire to self realization. All other obligations are secondary” and “only actions that kindle man’s divine nature are worthy of the name of actions”. However she did not ask everyone to become a renunciate. “Everyone is right from his own standpoint,” she would say. She did not give formal initiations and refused to be called a guru, as she maintained that “all paths are my paths” and kept saying “I have no particular path”.
A spectacular exploration of varied paths of devotion that converge at one of the world’s most extraordinary religious events — the Kumbh Mela — Pan Nalin’s thoughtful documentary is a genuinely spiritual journey.
For those who want to seriously practice kriyas, it is time to formulate a specific sadhana. Sadhana means "endeavoring to obtain a particular result." The result kriyabans seek is accelerated spiritual evolution. Sadhana becomes a powerful method to achieve this result. There are three important aspects of sadhana: choice, commitment and aspiration. The first stage of sadhana is to choose a practice. Even the most simple sadhana will be challenging to the newcomer. Consider the sadhana of lighting a candle every night, then immediately blowing it out. Nothing more or nothing less. Do this for ninety days. You will observe the mind coming up with every reason why you shouldn't do it and every excuse why you missed a few (or many) nights. Yet by accepting it as a sadhana, you make a choice to do it and it becomes a spiritual practice. The second aspect of sadhana relates to regularity -- doing something at periodic intervals. This typically would be at the same time in the same place everyday. Yet it doesn't have to be everyday; it could be every other day or every Tuesday and Thursday, as long as it is regular. Doing practice irregularly is not sadhana. Once the schedule is selected, the challenge of sadhana is to stick with it -- not to miss the appointed time. This is the first measure of commitment. The second measure is to make a commitment for a specific period of time; that is, choose do the practice for thirty days, sixty days, ninety days, or even 108 days. Notice the level of your success, then take a break. Decide upon another practice (or the same one) and make another commitment. Yet choice and regularity are not the only aspects of sadhana. If they were, simply dressing every day would be a sadhana. We choose what clothes to wear and we do it. Dressing could be a sadhana, yet it is just a mechanical action done every day. Thus, the final key to a successful sadhana is conscious intention. This is where the power is generated, and more still, when the intention becomes an aspiration. Consider once again the candle exercise cited above. Initially, it will challenge the mind and the ego. The spiritual "you" may even win the battle, but to keep it from becoming mechanical, an intention is required. Try this variation. Light the candle. Say, "This is all I have to do for the benefit of self, other, and the world." Then blow out the candle. Doing no other practice than this will begin a transformation process that will alter your life. To add even more power behind it, consider this statement, "This is all I have to do to remember who I am; I remember this for the benefit of Self, Other, and the World." One immediate result of sadhana is the remembrance of "who we are" rather than "what we are" during the brief moments the sadhana takes. Repetitively remembering our inner essence nature is at the heart of all spiritual growth. One day we will remember our spiritual essence in every moment. That is the realized state. So start with a simple sadhana to build your confidence. Add another sadhana in addition to this one. Expand a sadhana to include many practices including yoga or other bodily movement, chanting or inner mantra, and kriya practice. Copyright 1994, Alan Verdegraal, "Tantra: The Magazine", P.O.Box 108, Torreon, NM 87061, Issue #8, p22-23. Excerpt from Sadhana at sacred-texts.com
Greatness in any skill comes after a lot of practice, and that practice has to start somewhere. A few weeks ago, I had a text exchange with a yoga teacher who was at that starting point.
She was about to teach her first fully-booked class and, although she was a stellar student in her teacher training, she felt terrified enough to half-jokingly ask me, 10 minutes before class time, if I could teach in her place. I did not. Instead, I stopped thinking about anything else for a moment so I could quickly tell her what I thought would help her the most in that moment. A simple “Oh, you’ll do fine” wouldn’t have worked.
It turns out that the class went well and was followed with very positive feedback from the students. Here is a more detailed version of what I told her.
1. Remember why you teach.
How do you finish the sentence, “I teach yoga because…”?
Each teacher’s motivation to teach is unique, but they likely all have one element in common: a desire to share the benefits of the practice with others. After graduating a teacher training, beginning teachers tend to have so much information swimming around in their heads that they lose sight of the original reason they started to teach. Taking a moment to remember that you love yoga and that you chose to endeavor to share it works wonders for calming nerves and focusing instruction.
2. Remember what yoga is.
What is it that makes what you are teaching a yoga practice? It’s important for teachers of all experience levels to know the answer to this, though not enough of them seem to even ask themselves the question. Right now, at the starting point of your teaching career, develop the habit of reminding yourself of your answer to this whenever you need to clarify what you are teaching others to do on their yoga mats.
3. Teach what you know.
In every training, I am asked whether it’s okay to teach things you can’t do yourself. The answer is yes and no. If it’s something you can’t do because you have a broken leg, then, yes, it’s okay, assuming you were able to do it before whatever broke your leg happened. Otherwise, no.
When I’m asked this, I reply with a question, “Why would you want to teach something you don’t know?” There is such pressure on all of us, yoga teachers or not, to get to the next thing. That mentality is helpful in an area where innovation is desired. But, in yoga practice, the work is meant to point our minds to the perfect present, not to the nonexistent future. Use your practice and teaching as time to let go of needing to move on.
Teaching yoga asana to people with different body structures and skill levels requires not only knowing how the pose works in your own body, but also knowing how it works in all the other kinds of bodies in the class. If you teach a pose that you aspire to, or that you’ve just done a few times, it won’t happen.
And, while there are many things you aren’t ready to teach, the flip side is that there are many things that you know very well, and that your students don’t yet know. Teach them those things.
4. Be prepared.
Great teachers constantly adapt their teaching strategy to the students who are present. Managing such adaptation becomes second nature after years of experience, but that doesn’t help the new teacher a lot. So, I teach them to prepare each of their classes in an intelligent way, with a specific process of sequencing, then to be ready to throw out the prep as they see what actually presents itself in class.
Why draft something that you’re not going to use? Because the more you work out plans in the low-stress times when you’re not teaching, the better you are at calmly making the right choices when you’re guiding the practices of others.
5. Remember that you are teaching people.
While some teachers take on a theatrical tone when teaching, as if playing the role of a yoga teacher, the great ones communicate in a way that seems effortless and unadorned.
Every budding teacher I’ve trained thus far has been able to talk to me, one on one, clearly and effectively. Applying that same skill to a group is not so hard when you remind yourself that you are talking to people. Alternatively, teachers see their students as poses, or as tests of their knowledge or teaching ability. While it’s true that we do teach poses and that we sometimes do that better than at other times, we are always teaching those things to human beings.
Consider something that you know very well, like how to brush your teeth. It would probably be very easy for you to teach that to somebody, and you would probably speak to them in the same way as if you weren’t teaching them. There is no reason to speak any differently.
Look your students in their eyes and talk them through their yoga practice. Assuming you know what you are teaching, this strategy opens up communication in familiar territory, which helps you teach effectively in your own voice.
6. Watch your students.
Every asana has at least a few dozen points about position and effort. Common weaknesses with beginning teachers are that they say too many of these points, not enough of them, or that they say the ones that aren’t needed.
One way to give the perfect amount of instruction is to watch your students. See what they need to hear, and wait to be sure they got the last instruction before you go on to the next one. This prevents wasted time and energy, and it makes each instruction more potent. It is also a manifestation of a fundamental instruction for yoga practice, the first of Patanjali’s yoga sutras: “Yoga is now.”
7. It’s not about you.
Before I was a yoga teacher, I did a little performance work that grew popular enough for me to be scared stiff before some shows. Once, as I was gripped with fear, a friend reminded me that the audience had come to have a good time and that they were there because they thought I’d help make that happen. And then I wasn’t scared.
Remind yourself of the same thing as a yoga teacher. People are coming to yoga class to get to a better place somehow, and they’ve chosen your class because they think you might help do that. They want you to succeed. They aren’t coming to class to critique you. In fact, they’re probably seeking your approval much more than they’re deciding whether you get theirs. Make your instruction more about them than it is about you. You chose to teach so that they could practice. Speak the words that allow that to happen without fear of criticism.
Huffington Post Article 7 Tips for Nervous New Yoga Teachers by James Brown
Ancient people had two reliable ways of measuring time—the length of a day and the length of a lunar cycle. Figuring out the length of the solar year was more complicated and required close observation of natural events, such as the cycling of the seasons and the movement of the stars in the heavens. A lunar month is approximately 29.5 days, and twelve lunar months equals 354 days—approximating, but not equaling the length of a solar year, which is 365 days. The seers of ancient Egypt are credited with first accurately figuring out how long it takes the Earth to orbit around the Sun. They did this by observing the movements of the Dog Star, Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky (currently visible in the eastern sky a couple of hours after sunset—down and to the left from Orion’s Belt). In first century BC Rome it was discovered that the existing Lunar Calendar was three months off in relation to the seasons. This was due to the eleven-day discrepancy between the Lunar and Solar Calendars that had been playing out over time. On the advice of Sosigenes, a learned astronomer from Alexandria, Caesar added 90 days to the year 46 BC and started a new calendar on January 1st 45 BC. Sosigenes tells Caesar that the length of a year is actually 365 days 6 hours, and advises him to add a “leap year” every fourth year. We have been using this same calendar ever since. The ancient Romans developed a custom of setting aside the period of 11 days at the end of the year, which constitutes the difference between a Lunar Year and a Solar Year, and designating it as a period of holiday, when time stood still and people feasted, celebrated, and partied, and absolutely no work got done. This time period corresponds roughly to the Winter Solstice through New Year’s Day. It makes sense to devote our time at the end of the year to celebration rather than to work. At the Winter Solstice we have the least amount of Solar Energy to warm us and invigorate us, and many people suffer from SAD—seasonal affective disorder. During Christmas we spend time with our family and many emotions are evoked. The year has been long and we have worked very hard living our lives, because being a human being is not an easy thing. Certainly there were some things we could have done better during the course of the year, but we are imperfect beings, after all. The important thing is that we learned something during the year that will make us wiser and more compassionate and loving as we continue forward into 2015. The living of a year is something like a yoga practice, with all the different asanas serving as metaphors for all the different situations we encountered. Some of those asanas were better than others, but it was all sadhana, and sadhana is always worthwhile. In reference to keeping our sadhana in the proper perspective, Patanjali says: Abhyasa vairaghyabhyam tannirodah—“By practicing diligently, with devotion and no interruption over a long period of time, and with nonattachment to any particular outcome, we will have peace of mind.”
December 30th Post from Tim Miller’s Blog Tuesdays with Timji
In the Hindu tradition, gods and goddesses dance as a way of expressing the dynamic energy of life. The image of Nataraja represents the god of gods, Shiva, as the Lord of the Dance, choreographing the eternal dance of the universe as well as more earthly forms such as Indian classical dance (which is said to have originated from his teachings). In Hindu mythology Shiva is also Yogiraj, the consummate yogi, who is said to have created more than 840,000 asanas, among them the hatha yoga poses we do today. While a cultural outsider may not relate to these mythic dimensions in a literal way, dancers in India revere the divine origins of their dances, which were revealed to the sage Bharata and transcribed by him into the classic text on dance drama, the Natya Shastra (circa 200 c.e.). What many practitioners of yoga do not know is that one of the central texts of yoga, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, written around the same time, was also inspired by an encounter with Nataraja.
Srivatsa Ramaswami, Chennai-based yoga teacher, scholar, and longtime student of yoga master T. Krishnamacharya, includes a pivotal story of how Patanjali came to write the Yoga Sutra in his book Yoga for the Three Stages of Life. In Ramaswami’s account, Patanjali, a young man with a great yogic destiny, is drawn to leave home to do tapas (intensive meditation) and receive the darshana of Shiva’s dance. Eventually Shiva becomes so taken by Patanjali’s ekagrya (one-pointed focus) that he appears before Patanjali and promises to reveal his dance to the young yogi at Chidambaram, a Nataraja temple in present-day Tamil Nadu. At Chidambaram, Patanjali encounters a golden theater filled with many divine beings and sages. To Patanjali’s wonderment, Brahma, Indra, and Saraswati start to play their sacred instruments. Shiva then begins his ananda tandava (“dance of ultimate bliss”). As Ramaswami tells it, “The great tandava starts with a slow rhythm and in time reaches its crescendo. Engrossed completely in the divine dance, the great sages lose their separate identities and merge with the great oneness created by the tandava.” At the end of the dance, Shiva asks Patanjali to write the Mahabhasya, his commentaries on Sanskrit grammar, as well as the Yoga Sutra, the yogic text most widely used by Western yoga practitioners today.
Another area where dance and hatha yoga meet is in the actual sadhana (practice), where there are many parallels between the two arts in both the technique and spirit (bhava) of the dance. The tradition is passed from guru to shishya (student) in a live transmission; the teacher gives the proper adjustments and guides the students into the inner arts of the practice. All of Indian classical dance refers back to the Natya Shastra text for an elaborate classification of the form. If you thought the technique of asana was detailed, you should peruse the Natya Shastra: It not only describes all the movements of the major limbs (angas)—the head, chest, sides, hips, hands, and feet—but also offers a detailed description of the actions of the minor limbs (upangas)—including intricate movements of the eyebrows, eyeballs, eyelids, chin, and even the nose—to create specific moods and effects. As in hatha yoga, one begins with the basics of body mechanics and gradually moves toward the subtler aspects of the art.
The karanas, dance counterparts of asanas, are linked into a sequence known as angaharas. Ramaa Bharadvaj compares angaharas to the flowing yoga of vinyasa, in which the “dance” of yoga is experienced as the linking of one asana to the next through the breath. “Even though a posture can be held,” she says, “it is really part of a flow. It’s like the Ganges coming down from the Himalayas: Although it passes Rishikesh and then Varanasi, it doesn’t stop; it keeps flowing.” Like the alignment of asanas, the karanas are based on the center line of the body in relation to gravity and include not only placement of the body but also attention to the pathways of energies that flow through the body.
Ultimately, yoga is about connecting to the Big Dance, which one can experience either abstractly, through the lens of spiritual culture, or more intimately, as did physicist Fritjof Capra. In his book The Tao of Physics, he describes the experience he had while he was sitting on the beach and watching the waves, observing the interdependent choreography of life: “I ‘saw’ cascades of energy coming down . . . in which particles were created and destroyed. I ‘saw’ the atoms of the elements and those of my body participating in this cosmic dance of energy. I felt its rhythm and ‘heard’ its sound and at that moment I knew that this was the Dance of Shiva.”
Excerpts from Yoga Journal Article The Divine Dance by Shiva Rea
Sādhanā is a discipline undertaken in the pursuit of a goal. Abhyāsa is repeated practice performed with observation and reflection. Kriyā, or action, also implies perfect execution with study and investigation. Therefore, sādhanā, abhyāsa, and kriyā all mean one and the same thing. A sādhaka, or practitioner, is one who skillfully applies…mind and intelligence in practice towards a spiritual goal.
Iyengar, B.K.S. (1993, 2002). Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali. Hammersmith, London, UK: Thorsons. ISBN 978-0-00-714516-4 p.22