Sadhana: The Study of Divine Self Love

The alarm goes off, the day begins; stretch, warm lemon water, shower, brush teeth. Maybe some gargling or tongue scraping, Nasya, a few moments for pranayama. We can all relate to something similar, right?  

This is Dinacharya: daily rituals performed in conjunction with the rhythms of nature to maintain health, wellness, and balance. Dinacharya helps us reconnect with our authentic selves, which aligns with the natural ebbs and flows of the seasons and energies circulating throughout the universe. We are each a small but integral piece of the universal macrocosm, receiving and exerting our own unique forces. Part of our Karma.

Sadhana is translated as “discipline” or “practice” yet that translation fails to capture the true spiritual component of the word. Sadhana can be likened to something more devout, committing to an intention with a full and joyous heart, having an end goal in mind.  

All nature evolves and experiences such routine and order with its own objectives: the moon influences the tides; sunrise and sunset signify the beginning and end of our days, and the Earth's orbit around the sun defines our seasons. Our capacity as humans to select our path is what sets us apart from Mother Earth and defines the difference between nature and Sadhana.

Sadhana is any act performed with spiritual intent and/or mindfulness. Full attention is paid at the moment, in the present. It is a conscious decision to place full attention on the task at hand coupled with desire. Ayurveda explains this phenomenon by saying whatever we place our attention on, grows. Like energy increases like.  

Attention has energy and energy has force. The more focused the attention we give to a thought or activity, the more powerful that thought or action becomes and the greater the sphere of influence of its effect. Any action performed as a Sadhana not only produces a more profound result but also a more sattvic influence in ourselves and on our environment.  

When you commit yourself completely to the task at hand, you succeed no matter what the outcome. You are not bound by a particular result or performance, rather the experience and effort put forth is the ultimate reward.  

“In this way, performing Sadhana transforms the day-in, day-out routine of life from an experience of limitation to a means of liberation,” (“Absolute Beauty: Radiant Skin and Inner Harmony Through the Secrets of Ayurveda”, Patrima Raichur, p 173, 1997). 

Unlike Dinacharya, in which we commit to the pleasantries and perhaps off-handedness of a predictable daily schedule, Sadhana becomes an ingrained part of ourselves. We form a permanent connection with a passion; we do it for the love of it, not for accolades or admiration or to boast. The experience and sensations drive us and keep us going back. In the end, Sadhana leads us to a state of peace and surrender. We find stillness, quiet, contentment. Sadhana is a pure labor of self-love.

Prayer, meditation, asana practice, pranayama, kriyas, healthy eating, surrender, therapy, self care, exercise, music, dance… Anything that inspires, enriches, nourishes, and fulfills you can be a Sadhana.  

One of my favorites is practicing Abhyanga on myself. It is so simple, it can take as little or much time as you want or have, and the results are as big as the effort you put into it. Self care in general is a perfect place to start if you are new to Sadhana. 

Only from a well-nourished soul can anything flow. 

My other most important Sadhana is my Yoga practice. It looks different every day but that isn’t the point. Every day is different so it only makes sense my practice should look different. Again, it isn’t the outcome or an award that matters - it’s the journey.

What is your Sadhana? If you don’t have one, what would you like it to be? What would you like to cultivate in your life?