I began the current incarnation of my morning sadhana practice (a Sanskrit term which means spiritual practice) after a yummy lunch at The Steeping Room with my teacher, mentor and friend (not necessarily in that order) Ana Pilar. My Advanced Studies this spring at Yoga Yoga include an Independent Studies and Practice Development seminar, for which Ana Pilar was the natural choice. We got together in mid-January to begin the discussion of what Practice Development would look like for me, and this is what we came up with, for starters:

  • Read a small portion of The Upanishads.
  • Three or four asanas to wake and loosen the body.
  • Ten to twelve rounds of pratiloma ujjayi breath.
  • Six to eight rounds each of chanting the Gayatri mantra: first in a loud, normal voice, then in a quiet whisper, then silently, internally.
  • Seated meditation.

We created this practice for me so that I would have a strong tool to help me start each day in a manner which aligns me with my deepest intentions and purposes. Though I’ve long been a fan of the idea of practicing yoga early in the morning, too often the first thing I’d do after getting up and making tea would be to pick up my needles and spend some time knitting, which would invariably end up eating up way more of my morning than I intended it to.  In a typical scenario, I wouldn’t get to the mat until 10am or later, often without having had breakfast, which would most likely translate into a crappy time on the mat, and by the time that was over, I’d have no morning left, and I’d be famished, frazzled and cranky.  Not the intended outcome.

So, Ana P and I resolved that I would make some changes.  No longer would I begin the day with knitting; instead, once I have my tea, I do a little bit of reading and writing in my journal, which seems to naturally lead to going into my yoga room for my morning practices.  A month into this new regime, I would say it’s been very successful and satisfying. I enjoy the practices themselves, and incorporating this sadhana into my life has given me a new lease on my mornings: I walk out of the yoga room feeling rooted and centered, having plenty of prime morning time ahead of me, and a sense of clarity of purpose as to how to spend it.

This experience has led me to look at the concept of a guru, or personal teacher, in a lovely new light. Having the benefit of Ana P’s insight and experience in designing the practice was tremendously beneficial: I don’t kid myself into thinking that I have a sufficiently deep and clear understanding, either of myself or of these spiritual practices,  to make the best choices on what to do, morning after morning. But an additional, and unexpectedly sweet, benefit of this partnership is sensing, in some way, Ana P’s presence with me, like a small bird on my shoulder, as I head into the yoga room.  I am blessed with a teacher who cares about my personal spiritual practice, something with which we too ofter labor alone, and lonely. That small measure of accountability provides me with the support and encouragement I need to stay faithful to my intention to practice.

Stay tuned: Next post, a deeper exploration of the individual elements of my sadhana.