Patanjali wrote that our practice will become firmly rooted and stable when we practice consistently and for a long time. Sadhana is a great way to work with commitment and grow deep roots in our practice. By making a commitment for a certain time period, and sticking to it, we learn to maintain our practice on good days and bad, when we enjoy it and when we’d rather not do it. This ebb and flow is natural, and we can cycle through it multiple times. Sometimes though, it can feel like a constant struggle to maintain our commitment to a practice. In frustration, we may think we must be doing something wrong or even quit in the face of difficulty. If you’re experiencing stress or difficulty with your practice, and it goes beyond the natural ebb and flow of life, don’t give up! Here are a few thoughts that might help you change your experience and keep up.
Intention. Practicing yoga for the sake of practicing yoga can certainly have benefits. However, as with many things in life, having a clear intention for your actions can give more depth and meaning to what you’re doing. If your sadhana practice is leaving you a bit cold, ask yourself why you are doing a particular practice. Reconnecting with the reason you chose to start in the first place can re-energize your practice. If you’ve made an extended commitment, for example 1 year or 1000 days, make it a point to regularly reflect on your intention. You may find that as you deepen your practice you need to shift or adjust your intention to reflect the inner work you’ve done.
Don’t compare. If you’ve done any of Spirit Voyage’s 40 day Global Sadhanas, you may have visited the facebook discussion boards. There people can share experiences and reach out for input from the community if they’re having trouble. Often people talk about the wonderful experiences they’re having in their meditations, which can sometimes be difficult if your own practice doesn’t seem to be providing the same feelings. It’s important to remember that each person’s experience will be different because each individual is working with different life experiences and karma. Just because you may not be feeling waves of bliss during Bound Lotus, or having dreams of old relationships during So Purkh, it doesn’t mean what you are experiencing is any less good or valid. Honor your experience, and feel free to share what is happening with others in the community. Someone else may just benefit from learning about what you’re working through!
Expectations. If you’ve done a 40 day (or longer) sadhana before and had a powerful experience, it can be easy to assume that every sadhana will be the same. But different yoga practices work on different levels of our being, and the results aren’t always readily apparent. If you’re working with a physical kriya it’s fairly easy to assume that at the end of 40 days you will be stronger or have more endurance in a posture. On the other hand, if you choose something more internally focused it’s more difficult to measure. Kirtan kriya for example, is said to help balance the hemispheres of the brain and expand the aura. Those things are a bit more intangible and harder to measure, so the results of doing the practice might be harder to notice. Expect that each sadhana will be different, and each benefit you in its own way.
Give it time. Yogi Bhajan taught that it takes 40 days to break a habit, 90 days to create a new habit, and 1000 days to experience mastery. He understood that it takes commitment and time to change. If you are feeling like your sadhana isn’t bringing the results you were hoping for, it may be that you need to give it more time. Let’s say you’re working with the mantra “Ant Na Siphtee” to help break through family karma and generational blocks – unless you come from the most perfect family imaginable, the lifetime of interactions and expectations you’re dealing with will likely take much longer than 40 days to repair. Respect yourself and your practice enough to give yourself time to achieve all of the benefits available to you.
Try something else. I truly believe that a yoga practice will have benefits for everyone. But we have to crawl before we can walk. If you’re having trouble, it may be that you have bitten off more than you can chew in your practice, or are coming at an issue from a less ideal angle. If you’ve never done any sort of meditation before, choosing a 31 minute or 62 minute practice may bring more frustration than joy. That doesn’t mean it won’t bring benefits, but you may benefit more from starting with 11 minute meditations and working your way up. That way, it’s easier to maintain your commitment rather than quitting in frustration. Also, it’s possible that your chosen practice doesn’t directly address some fundamental or key issue you need to work through. Again using Ant Na Siphtee as an example, if you have self-esteem issues stemming from your upbringing, perhaps you would do better to work on yourself before extending your practice to family issues. By all means, complete your 40 day commitment if possible, but recognize that you may be better served by adjusting your practice to suit where you are now.