Sadhana – Practice of Life and Yoga


The term “sadhana” in yoga is an important one to understand. In the west we tend to translate this as “practice”, or even “disciplined practice”, but that just doesn’t seem to quite clarify the weight of this term. Especially in the times we are in now, this idea of sadhana is taking on a whole new depth. “Practice” is no longer just that “other” thing we call yoga, but it is truly the practice and discipline of life itself.

Abhijata Iyengar, the granddaughter of BKS and the new “voice” of the Iyengar Institute in India, sent out a letter to us yesterday in the midst of their own total lock down. In this letter, I feel she gives us guidance on what this time means to our sadhana and how we may approach it more clearly. I want to share some excerpts of that with you today.

“My dear friends, 
We are now in a time and situation that we never imagined. We always believed it has happened to “them” and will not happen to “us”. Time tells us that each one is as vulnerable as the other. The whole world, as one body, is deeply affected. 

Just like everybody else, I am also deeply concerned with the way things are turning out. None of us knows for certain what lies ahead of us, but I am sure that this too shall pass. If each one of us can act responsibly, we will see a better future. 

We are confined to our homes and Nature has forced upon us a time to just pause. Though courage is an asset for a yoga practitioner, equally important is sensitivity to the present moment. This is a forced time for self-study for us. Your practice sessions now can be so enriching because you are practically locked down. Take up asanas, pranayama, concepts and books that you always shoved under the carpet. We always complained we had no time on our hands. Here it is. Find the joy in quiet practice sessions. Find the actions and responses in each asana and pranayama.

It is also an opportunity to sit back and revisit any of our actions, reactions and decisions. In the hustle-bustle of everyday living, we had taken many things for granted and did not quite reflect on those, both on the mat and off the mat. Here is our time to do so.”

She goes on to give a stanza from The Bhagavad Gita – Chapter 18, stanza 5 : “Acts of sacrifice, charity and penance are not to be given up; they must be performed. Indeed, sacrifice, charity and penance purify even the great souls.” With that, she expounds upon how these three aspects might help keep us “pure”, healthy, and safe during this time.

– “Yajna which is translated as sacrifice is an offering we make to Nature. It is a symbolic spiritual exchange between oneself and Nature. Each one of us should in solidarity fight this outbreak. Each one of us can make a difference today and give the world a chance to rebuild.”

– “Dana which is translated as charity is actually an act of giving. What better way to follow dana now than to stay indoors and give up our urge to socialise. It is our social duty to not put others in danger.”

– “Penance or tapas is done for oneself. It should be our austere resolve and restraint to be in our place of stay and follow the rules laid down by our governing authorities. Stay home is the mantra now.”

Through the sacrifices we make today in our own lives, we can be giving back to the greater whole and ultimate growth of society out of this crisis as it comes to pass. As we are enclosed with ourselves and those closest to us, we are in the best place to reflect and refuel our commitments close to home which will then ripple outward to those outside when the time is ripe to do so.

“In a far corner of the world, I pray for the health and well-being of each one of us. Please take care.

With great affection, Abhijata Iyengar”

And, with great affection right here in LaCrosse, please take care and carry on your sadhana…The Yoga Place.

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Jennie Williford CIYT

Jennie Williford (CIYT Level 3) is a transplant to LaCrosse via Montana, Illinois, and originally Texas. Throughout her life moves and 5 trips to India, Jennie has acquired a well-rounded and multi-faceted approach to Iyengar Yoga since her start in 1998. Jennie loves the experimental and explorative nature of yoga in accessing deeper knowledge of the Self on every level. The practice of yoga can be intense and introspective, however as practitioners we can be light-hearted and open-minded in our discipline. Jennie is intrigued by the philosophy of yoga and hopes to share this depth of subject while teaching the physical and mental benefits that come from the practice of posture.