Daytime Sadhana

Once we accustom ourselves to yoga we find innumerable occasions to apply it and thereby improve our lives.

Many people think yogic practices are limited to the early hours of the morning, and so they fail to appreciate the broader view of sadhana. Spiritual practice is not an end in itself, but a means to achieve harmony within the body and mind. We move through the process of sadhana into a heightened perception of the world and begin to see with clarity and precision the things we previously missed completely. With the yogic eye, a broad new expanse opens before us.

Sadhana gives many benefits throughout the day. It makes us feel much lighter, stronger, and more capable of functioning in the world. No matter where we are or what we arc doing, we generally experience the yogic attitude of awareness accompanied by greater control and peace of mind. This increases our enjoyment of every activity and gradually we begin to understand that every position of the body is an asana, every breath a pranayama, and every thought and feeling a part of the meditative process.

Simple daily activities such as eating and defecation can also become extensions of our morning practice. We can experiment in order to determine what effect awareness has on eating, or meditation on digestion and defecation. With practice we can utilize the basics of sadhana to improve and enhance our life from moment to moment.

While eating

Before you start to eat ensure that you are fully relaxed and that your sympathetic nervous system is dominant. Your right nostril should be flowing and if it is not then do padadhirasana, the balancing breath pose, for a short time.

Sit in vajrasana and cross the arms in front of the chest, placing the hands under the armpits with the thumbs pointing upward in front of you. Close your eyes and become aware of the breath in the nostrils. Your breath should be slow and rhythmical. If the left nostril is open and the right closed, remove the left hand and continue with just the right hand in the left armpit. This should open the right nostril after a few minutes.

When commencing your meal become aware of your body, breath and mind. Relax each and every part. You may imagine that you are eating with your favourite deity, God, guru or the higher self.

The best sitting position during the meal is sukhasana, or the easy posture.

This posture is better than sitting on a chair because crossing the legs moves the prana up from the lower part of the body and pelvis into the abdomen, making more energy available for digestive organs.

During the meal ensure that your breath is slow, smooth and relaxed. Your awareness should be on your food, before it enters the mouth and after. In this way you can then appreciate the sensation of each mouthful of food mixing with the saliva in your mouth as you chew and then traveling down the oesophagus to the stomach. Each taste, temperature and texture of the food should be thoroughly experienced. When you have finished the meal you should be aware of the food that has passed down into your stomach and the digestion process which is already under way. This is the meditation of eating.

Always try to end each meal as as your stomach is filled to satisfaction. If you continue beyond this point it is possible to eat and eat, but without satisfaction, stretching the stomach until a feeling of bloated overfullness is reached. For many people this is the starting point of indigestion.

After meals you should sit in vajrasana. In the beginning you can maintain the posture for as long as is comfortable; slowly build up your time to 20 minutes. While sitting you will notice that even though you may have been able to eat more, your hunger is satisfied and you still feel light.

Try to become aware of your digestive tract. Visualize it inside your abdomen and become aware of any movements, sensations or feelings. Use your knowledge of the anatomy and physiology of the digestive tract to visualize in your body ideal digestion in progress.

Alternatively, you can just focus on the rhythmical movement of the natural breath in the abdomen. The more you relax with awareness, the better your digestion will be. You can also count each respiration from 108 back to 1 or from 54 to 1. Should you lose count then go back to the starting number. If feelings, visions and thoughts bubble up spontaneously, simply observe them with the detached attitude of a silent observer, and return your awareness to the breath.

Another variation is to visualize a sun with its centre at the navel, radiating power throughout the whole of the body. Feel its warmth digesting the food and sending prana and nutrients to all the different parts of the body.

On the toilet

Toilet training for children is a matter of common sense and trial and error. For many of us who have had ineffective and also inhibition-producing toilet training and are now suffering the consequences, awareness and a few simple yogic practices can undo all the damage and set us back on the path of good health.

The best sitting position to relearn defecation is the squatting position. This position aids the natural energies to function and indeed is the most ideal for people suffering from constipation. This was the natural position assumed for defecation before sitting type toilet arrangements became fashionable. So now, unfortunately, many people have lost the ability to squat. In order to better approximate the natural optimal posture, they tend to lean forward, crowding the spinal vertebrae and constricting the energies therein.

In order to relearn squatting the best asanas are the shakti bandha series which include: nauka sanchalana, chakki chalana, pulling the rope, chopping wood, namaskara, vayu nishkasana and udarakarshan asana. Though at first you may feel a little uncomfortable, mentally and physically, you will quickly appreciate the efficacy of this position once you have become accustomed to it. Squatting helps us to relieve not only constipation and piles but also other pelvic conditions such as premenstrual tension as well -as reducing fat on the hips and aiding the flow of pelvic energies. The next time you are on the toilet, whether squatting or sitting, watch your body and mind as in the process of antar mouna. Examine the toilet habits you have developed over your lifetime and observe the thoughts, actions, reactions and feelings you experience. Try to be a witness to your natural body mechanisms so that you are aware of each and every occurrence from start to finish. Internal awareness induces relaxation and parasympathetic activity.

Become aware of the natural breath in the abdomen, Feel the rhythmic inward and outward movement and just let whatever is going to happen, happen. Do not strain. Accept the situation as it is, even if no stool is expelled.

Imagine that you are breathing through the spinal cord. With every inhalation the breath ascends the spinal cord and with every exhalation it descends the spinal cord. You are ascending from mooladhara to ajna and descending from ajna to mooladhara. Repeat this for a few minutes using ujjayi pranayama. When you are established in this breath awareness, visualize the intestines and especially the large intestine which travels up the right side of the abdomen, from right to left across the upper abdomen, and down the left side of the abdomen. After some time you should begin to actually feel it and become aware of the movement of faeces and gas within.

As you inhale take the breath up the spinal cord to ajna and as you exhale bring the breath down to manipura chakra at the navel area and feel the exhaled prana filling the whole abdomen. The more you exhale the more relaxed your abdomen becomes and the more movement you can feel and actually visualize within the colon. Repeat this for some time.

Then, while maintaining the inhalation to ajna and exhalation to manipura, slowly expand the abdominal muscles slightly and keep them rigid but relaxed. Do not strain. You should feel a slight increase in the intra-abdominal pressure. The abdomen still moves with the breath but it is controlled. Feel as though you are holding the internal organs mentally and squeezing faeces out of the rectum.

Under stress and strain

Whenever you feel too much tension, there are a few simple techniques which can be employed to relax the body and mind. Probably the best of these is yoga nidra or shavasana with breath awareness. Even if you are unable to lie down during the day, you can still utilize basic breath awareness anytime, anywhere — in the car, bus or train, on the job or while eating, walking or talking. All that is necessary for this practice is awareness of your breath, preferably in the abdomen. Feel the rhythmic movement and keep the breath as relaxed, slow and natural as possible. Feel yourself actually riding the breath. With every exhalation you breathe out impurities and toxins, worries, tensions, problems and frustrations. With every inhalation you breathe in warm, golden, life-giving energy. Feel more and more relaxed and refreshed with every breath. This should be practiced as often as possible during the day. Try to extend it into all your daily activities. In the beginning you may use a special reminder to trigger your memory. For example, every time you look at a clock or watch, practice this for at least 5 minutes.

Another variation of this practice is to use the pulse as a counting measure. Take hold of the left hand pulse with the right hand. When you feel the pulse, count 5 beats for each inhalation and 5 for each exhalation, or whatever number of beats you feel comfortable with. Within a few breaths you will notice the pulse slowing and the breathing becoming longer and deeper. Continue for as long as you have time.

With practice, yogic techniques can be adapted to suit all the needs of daily life. In terms of alleviating chronic tension and indigestion, these and other techniques should then be combined with karma, bhakti and jnana yoga. This integral approach is a powerful means of changing the consciousness and eliminating the causes of disharmony and disease on all levels.