In the ancient system of yoga philosophy, there is a powerful concept known as Sadhana which is often translated as your daily practice. As with all Sanskrit words, there is much more complexity to Sadhana than just a practice.
There are a few words embedded in Sadhana. Sadhaka is a student following a path towards deeper spirituality. Dhana is a word that means both offering and wealth, the concept being that the more you offer, the more wealth you receive — and conversely, if you are wealthy, you offer in gratitude for that wealth.
Putting these concepts together gives us a concept of daily offering towards spirituality, and that offering is to your deeper soul. As students on a path to spirituality, we make an offering to our soul in order to help it on its journey to enlightenment. So Sadhana is a daily offering/practice/connection to your soul. And this Sadhana is something that is done early in the morning as the sun rises, since in the yoga philosophy system, the sun is seen as a symbol of your soul. The morning is also a time of calm energies in our surroundings and our internal state, as we have yet to be disturbed by the stresses of the day.
In the yoga system we approach Sadhana with a clear and clean mind. So we wake up, bathe, and then usually light a candle and some incense to get us into the right space. Then what your Sadhana is varies depending on the traditions that most resonate with you. It must, however, be a daily practice performed with ritual discipline, done with an open heart, and involving some connection with your soul.
Ideas for a morning Sadhana:
- A religious morning ritual with worship and prayers
- Lighting a candle or oil lamp
- Lighting incense
- Saying prayers
- Singing or chanting
- Mantra practices
- A meditation practice
- A yoga practice
- Journaling and reflection
- Morning walk communing with nature
- A contemplative cup of tea or coffee
You can develop your own mix-and-match morning ritual from these ideas, but the most important thing is that you honor it daily, and feel connected to your soul during the practice. It is also beneficial to do this early.
The time around sunrise in the yoga system is known as Brahma Muhurta, the time of the creator. It is said that Sadhana performed during this time has a much more powerful and multiplicative effect than at other times of day.
Spiritual practitioners often have this disciplined morning routine, but this can be hard to implement given the pressures of our modern world. For someone starting on the path of Sadhana, I recommend the following five basic steps, keeping in mind that any morning routine actually begins the night before:
Step 1: Get Sleep — A solid morning ritual is only as good as your morning energy level, which is predetermined by how well you sleep. That means the night before no screens, email, phones, news, alcohol, or stimulating activities within an hour of bedtime. Let your brain secrete its natural sleep-inducing hormones uninterrupted. Then wake up refreshed to greet your soul.
Step 2: Move — In the morning, get up and get moving! Stretch your body (especially a yoga asana practice that works the energetic as well as physical layers of your body) or just go for a walk — anything to get the energy moving through the body. No emails, phones, or news just yet.
Step 3: Get Quiet — Bathe, then sit for some quiet contemplation time. Prayer, meditation, journaling, silent mantra practice — soak in the morning stillness.
Step 4: Eat — Eat a solid breakfast. Food in your stomach grounds you; an empty stomach makes you more susceptible to the ungrounding stresses of the day. Coffee on an empty stomach causes ulcers from a Western Medicine viewpoint, and causes Vata/Air imbalance from a Vedic viewpoint, which causes ungroundedness and a lack of focus.
Step 5: Plan — Spend 5-10 minutes planning what you want to accomplish in the day, reviewing your appointments, and getting your head in the right space. Perhaps you might also journal about what you are grateful for in life.
After accomplishing all five steps, you have soothed your soul and are properly prepared to manage whatever challenges the material world may bring. You are now finally ready to get to your email, phone, and news with the protective layer of your Sadhana. Doing material world activities before the prep steps, however, can leave you vulnerable to the sometimes negative influences lurking within your email, phone, and news, such as an agitated co-worker, frustrated client, or a piece of bad news. My teacher always said one hour of Sadhana in the morning gives you 23 hours of protection!
Vish Chatterji is an accomplished business leader turned executive coach with 20 years spanning multiple industries. In parallel, he has studied and practiced yoga, meditation, and Ayurveda (mind-body medicine) in his family’s lineage. An engineer by trade with a master’s degree in business administration, he coaches and advises senior executives and small-business owners blending Western management thinking with Eastern wisdom traditions and speaks on a variety of topics at the intersection of business and personal development. In addition to teaching leaders, Chatterji was a Board Director for the Beach Cities Health District in California. He is author of The Business Casual Yogi: Take Charge of Your Body, Mind & Career. A married father of three, he loves to garden, bicycle, and fix things around the house. Contact him at his website: headandheartinsights.com.