My last article on this thread gave an overview of Sādhānā. To help organize things, I can divide my Sādhānā into two styles: 1) structured and 2) unstructured. My daily structured practice consists of asana, pranayama, sitting, and studying Yoga text. My daily unstructured practice is the actual practice of Raja Yoga throughout my day. Practicing Ahimsa (non harming) to myself and others in thought, action, and words is one aspect of my “unstructured” practice. Yes, Yoga can and should be practiced outside a Yoga studio or off-the-mat as they say. Today's article will focus on my structured practice. I will cover the unstructured practice in the next article.
Daily Structured Practice
If you have already read ahead i.e. scanned below, you might think the structured practice seems daunting. If so, I have a handy dandy quote for you.
“One should not pursue goals that are easily achieved. One must develop an instinct for what one can just barely achieve through one’s greatest efforts.”
Inspired yet? Well, there is more. Let’s start with something almost so obvious but overlooked more often than we think; the function of the human body. What is the human body designed to do? The body is designed to move. Therefore, Asanas (physical postures) are important to say the least. But more importantly for Yoga, asanas prepare the body to take in more prana, our life force, by “opening” the body. Asanas encourage “healthier” postures.
“Bad posture and inefficient breathing lay at the roots of poor health.”
Asanas help us regulate and balance our prana. After Asanas, Pranayama (expansion of life force) is practiced to increase and further regulate our prana. Pranayama heightens our consciousness and begins to clear away the unnecessary “chatter” in our minds. After this preparation we can sit to find ... or better yet ... let our inner stillness be revealed – i.e. meditate.
To round-out my daily structured practice, I incorporate a little Jñāna Yoga. Jñāna Yoga is the Yoga of Knowledge. I let my thirst for spiritual knowledge (aka geeking-out) inspire me to read from the ancient Yoga text such as Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras or the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. This is not as hardcore as it sounds. Both of these texts are pretty straightforward reading. In fact, I will will go out on a limb and state that Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is the best self-help therapy book one can buy. Without further delay, below is an outline of the practice:
3+ rounds of Surya Namaskar if I practice in the morning or day and Chandra Namaskar if I practice in the evening or night.
11 basic asanas in the following order: sarvangasana, halasana, matsyasana, paschimothanasana, bhujangasana, shalabhasana, dhanurasana, ardha matsyendrasana, pada hasthasana, (sometimes bakasana), trikonasana, and svanasana.
Yogic breath (3 part breath)
Kapalbhati (frontal brain purification)
Nadi shodhana (purifying breath or alternate nostril breathing)
Breath observation or awareness
Trataka – concentration technique of gazing
Stillness – slipping into states of meditation
Sending Metta (loving kindness)
Studying Yoga Text:
Yoga Sutras from Patanjali
Hatha Yoga Pradipika
The next article will get into the juice of practicing Yoga in daily life situations.
Mark is a Yoga Instructor based in Bali. Prior to moving to Bali, Mark lived in America working in software and teaching Yoga, surfing, snowboarding, and rock climbing. Mark actively volunteers his time teaching community Yoga classes, working at animal shelters, teaching rock climbing, and supporting local coral reef conservation projects.