It is 5:00am, and the most annoying conglomerate of chimes and mechanical tones begins destroying the landscape of my dreaming. My eyes feel like someone put peanut butter in them, and just like a bull in a china shop, I begin knocking over everything on my nightstand to try and get to my water. I down a whole quart like I have been lost in the desert for days. A few slow deep breaths, and then my feet touch the floor. Luna and Kala are chirping and clawing at the door, and as I open it they both fall through the threshold like tupperware falling out of an overstocked cupboard. Naturally, they walk it off like nothing happened, they are just surprised to see me, of course.
It is at this point that my day begins to form. On my proudest days, I then move into 30 minutes of meditation, followed by some breathwork, and then I move to the top loft to flow. It is these days that I typically am able to achieve the most, I feel I can think the clearest, and my energy stays stable throughout the day. And then there are the days I would rather not discuss, when I move from the bedroom to the couch, and begin the damned social media scroll, which will undoubtedly turn my day into a weird directionless haze. On those days it is as though I am trying to sail through the foggy doldrums - I have the strongest intentions to carry on with my schedule, but my mind can’t see linearly, and my body is stuck in a flat, energy-less state. I move around doing this and that, but mostly I am just getting more and more lost as the day goes on.
The difference between these two days is sadhana. Sadhana is the Sanskrit word for a daily practice that brings your whole self into alignment, it is intentional discipline towards wellbeing, and it is the engine of yoga. Without sadhana, yoga is just another trendy workout.
We humans have a complicated history with discipline. On the one hand, we spent centuries being force-fed “righteous” jargon from religious institutions designed to promote discipline and conformity through shame and judgment. Then the 60’s brought in a spiritual revolution that slowly began to erode the foundations of these once unshakable establishments. And for good reason too; there has been no greater violence inflicted on this earth than that which has been inspired by religion. But then came the internet and smartphones. We now have unlimited information available to us 24/7, we are relentlessly connected to people far beyond our social circles, and our jobs demand more productivity from us than ever before. Not to mention through social media and streaming services we can be endlessly and mindlessly entertained anytime of day.
The result? We are losing our motivation, our discipline, and our sense of self. And in the absence of these three things, disease thrives. You may be thinking this sounds overly dramatic but let me ask you, dear reader,
Who are you?
I am in no way promoting a return to the past. Instead, I’m calling for an arrival to the present moment, and it will take discipline to get here.
I have said it before and certainly will again, yoga offers a dependable path to the present moment, both on and off the mat. Yoga is not a religion but more a way of living, a way of being with yourself and the earth that encourages wellbeing. Because of this yoga is not something you can do one time. It requires sadhana. It requires your dedication to practice each day, be that on or off the mat.
Please do not misinterpret what I am saying, there is no authority in yoga that is going to shame you or damn you to hell if you do not practice daily. Yoga is way too evolved to entertain such absurdities. I simply mean to say that yoga has the power to profoundly transform your life for the better: Through asana (the physical poses) you will find relief from pain, inflammation, and fatigue. Through pranayama (breathwork) you will discover that your mind is not separate from, but a part of, your physical body and that your breath is a powerful tool for self regulation. In meditation, you will discover a world both within and beyond yourself where you can experience peace, no matter what storms may be raging around you. And it takes your own self determination and consistent practice to get there. Your yoga teacher is simply a guide.
As with so many things, time will feel like your biggest barrier as you build a daily practice. But the truth is that it is less about the time you have (or don’t have) and more about your mindset. This is not a fad diet that you push through for a short period of time. Sadhana is a set of practices that help you nurture wellbeing in all areas of your life, and that you choose to do regularly (ideally daily)and indefinitely. For many, their sadhana includes sitting in meditation, practicing pranayama (breathwork), and possibly moving through some asanas (poses).
But this is your show and it must be a practice that dependably helps you feel more centered in yourself, and which noticeably helps you feel a greater sense of wellbeing. Below is an inexhaustive list of possible practices you might choose to also include in your sadhana:
Eating mindfully (avoiding doing other activities like watching TV, and focusing on being grateful for the food)
Seva(selfless service towards others)
A walk in nature
Writing or reading poetry
Chanting mantras that are meaningful to you
Now if you are like me and have a tad bit of neurodivergent tendencies, doing one practice everyday may not be realistic. This does not mean you are not capable of creating a sadhana. Instead consider making a list of all the things you COULD include in your daily practice. Then each day, look at your list and pick 1-3 things that you WILL do. This will help you build discipline to practice daily while also giving you a sense of freedom.
Here are 5 additional tips to help you create a sustainable daily practice:
Find an accountability partner or small group: Having an accountability partner can help you stay motivated and committed to your practice. You can schedule regular yoga sessions together, set a time to practice online at the same time, and check in with each other to make sure you're staying on track.
Use online resources: There are many online yoga resources available, from apps to YouTube videos. We created Onward Everyday specifically for this purpose, so you can keep your practice alive on days you do not have time to attend an in-person class.
Wake up a little earlier: If you're struggling to find time for yoga during the day, try waking up 15-30 minutes earlier and start your day with a short yoga practice. This can help set a positive tone for the day and give you an energy boost.
Make it a lunchtime habit: If you work in an office, try doing some yoga (be it meditation, breathwork, or asana) during your lunch break. This can help you re-energize and stay focused for the rest of the day.
Schedule it in: Treat your yoga practice like any other important appointment and schedule it into your day. Put it in your calendar, planner, or phone as a reminder and commit to it just like you would any other appointment.
Most importantly, give yourself grace. There is no such thing as a perfect practice. There will be days when you get lost in the doldrums. The work is less about avoiding these days, and more about finding your way back to the present, to yourself. Your sadhana is your path home.