Week 49: Kundalini Yoga - 3:45 am Sadhana Practice
"Sadhana is self-enrichment. It is not something which is done to please somebody or to gain something. Sadhana is a personal process in which you bring out your best." ~Yogi Bhajan
What did I do:
About a year ago I was introduced to the practice of kundalini yoga at Yoga West. I attended a workshop led by Guru Singh which was very powerful. At the workshop one of the participants told me about sadhana, a morning spiritual practice starting with prayer at 3:45am, an hour of kundalini yoga from 4am-5am, followed by another 30-60 minutes of meditation and chanting. Pretty soon after this, my friends and I started attending sadhana to expand our existing spiritual practice.
Who was with me:
Michelle (middle) and Ellie (left), friends who I have co-created meditation courses with, joined me for sadhana sessions. At times we went together and at times we went solo. On a given morning there are about 15 people attending the sadhana sessions along with the instructor.
What did I learn:
4 am in the morning
Sadhana occurs during what are called the "ambrosial hours", the 2.5 hours before sunrise, when the sun is at a 60 degree angel to the Earth. It is believed at this time, the energy you put int your sadhana provides maximum results.
There is something really mysterious and special about 4 am in the morning. For yogis and meditators, 4 am is an ideal hour of the day for spiritual connection to the divine. The mind is calm and refreshed after a good night's sleep and the distractions of the day are yet to begin.
As a side note, the puzzling 4 am hour has been referenced so much in books, songs, poems, advertisements, and movies that storyteller Rives has given two TED talks on the topic and has created an online four in the morning museum.
Covering your head and hair
For the prayer portion of sadhana, it is mandatory that men and women cover their head and hair. On one occasion, I was kindly reprimanded for not having a proper head cover. It is actually recommended (although not required) to cover head and hair during the entire sadhana session to command the 6th chakra/energy center. Some believe covering the head provides a sense of containment and focus while practicing yoga or doing work that requires clarity of thought.
Kundalini yoga instructors vary in their practice styles. If you decide to try this out, keep that in mind. For example, one instructor may be very focused on breath work while another instructor may focus on holding positions for an extended length of time. Do you really want to be holding plank for 2 minutes at 4am? haha. Having said that, there is a common understanding that everyone is on their own journey. I was pleasantly surprised that at Yoga West, it is absolutely acceptable to come to sadhana and just lay down and soak in the amazing collective energy in the room.
Breath of fire
Breath of fire is a sophisticated breath control tool that fights against anxiety, nerves, fears, pain, and depression. To practice, breathe in and out through the nose. Pull the abs in towards the diaphragm during the exhalation and out during inhalation. It is a very fast and loud breath, occurring up to 2 to 3 times a second.
The trick that I learned is to simply focus on exhaling (pushing the breath out with some force) and the inhale will naturally follow. When I first started practicing breath of fire I found myself gasping for air and getting light headed. Once I simply focused on a robust and quick exhale trusting the inhales will follow, I was able to keep up the breath work for an extended period of time.
Would I do this again:
I have since incorporated sadhana into my practice. Outside of my daily mediations, I attend a group sadhana session when I am feeling a need to 1) cleanse my mind and body of built up of toxicity and tension 2) connect on a deeper level to the divine or 3) break a 36 hour fast. Having said that, I am aware it is best to establish a regular practice and not only rely on it at times of distress, pain and uncertainty. I simply am not there yet but I do enjoy taking advantage of the benefits of sadhana from time to time. If you have dabbled in yoga and meditation, I highly recommend giving sadhana a try to take your practice to the next level.