Make some Space - Reflections on our Sadhana as Yogis - with Susanna and Jens
What are the reasons for our practice? What brings us on the mat?
Whatever our individuals answers to those questions might be, embarking on a sadhana involves asking yourself the important questions: “Who am I?” and “What is my purpose in life?” It means practicing with “reflection and devotion”, so Susanna and Jens told us at the beginning of our “Auszeit” with them. They wanted to take us on a sadhana, a “discipline undertaken in the pursuit of a higher goal” and also let us see a glimpse of what they experienced on their trip to the Himalayas in October 2015 together with R. Sharath Jois and Eddie Stern.
So what is sadhana? And what are the differences between the words sadhana, abhyasa and kriya? According to BKS Iyengar in his English translation of and commentary to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali they mean the same thing:
“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.”
Once we decide to practice Ashtanga yoga we might start with a certain aim or goal. For example, you might want to learn how to relax or want to have a beautiful body. Whatever the reasons might be that bring us on the mat, they are fine and right, so Susanna and Jens said.
The next step then is to make some space for the practice. This is the beginning of sadhana. We commit ourselves to go on the mat and thus we have to make certain changes and also some sacrifices in life. For example we may choose to go to bed early in order to have some time for our practice early in the morning. Or we might learn to eat a little less before we practice in order to feel light when on the mat. As Ashtanga yoga is meant to be a daily practice, so our enthusiasm and commitment gets tested every day.
On the good days we might have a good time on the mat and experience some lightness and joy while practicing. Sadhana, however, also includes reflection. So when do you reflect on your practice? When do you start asking yourself what the practice means to you? This often happens when we encounter certain obstacles, when we face pain or injury or simply just feel stiff and uneasy with ourselves. And this, so Susanna and Jens assured us, is part of the sadhana. The moment when we start to move out of our comfort zone and see some more of what goes on in our minds and bodies is actually the time when transformation is possible. If you go on the mat daily, the practice can become a daily meeting with yourselves. Because in the face of the daily shifts in your body and by observing the fluctuations of our minds, there is the chance of becoming humble in the course of practice and life.
So make some space for your practice and try to add some reflection and devotion to your actions on the mat and in life!