My Sadhana Is Taking Over My Life. ~ David Robson

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Each week, from Sunday to Friday, I get up at 3 am to do a two-hour long asana practice before going in to work.

Sometimes I’m so tired, later in the day, that I’ll actually fall asleep mid-conversation. To get enough sleep at night, I have to go to bed one hour later…than my 18-month-old son. When people hear about my schedule, they look at me like I’m crazy.

And maybe they’re right. I’m freely choosing to do something that limits my freedom. Why?

Because it’s my sadhana.

Sadhana is a Sanskrit term that refers to a discipline or exertion in the pursuit of a goal. In Ashtanga Yoga, we do a daily sadhana to strengthen our practice of yoga. And we practice yoga in the pursuit of Kaivalya, liberation from the world of samsara, conditioned existence.

In my lineage, Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, our sadhana is the daily practice of meditation on a set sequence of asanas. The actual sadhana only takes about an hour or two each day, but its presence can potentially shape every moment and action in a practitioner’s life.

To do a daily practice requires certain sacrifices. The physical rigors of an Ashtanga sadhana require the seeker to eventually give up habits and choices that don’t support their practice of yoga. If one is to do the practice properly, according to the prescriptions of the teaching, one’s lifestyle will eventually undergo a huge transformation.

Some might claim that they can live an undisciplined life and still do the practice. I would counter that, by the very definition of sadhana, without discipline there is no practice. Without a sincere attempt to follow the precepts of Ashtanga Yoga, whatever happens on the mat is just posturing, or exercise.

No matter how tightly I cling to unhealthy habits, my commitment to a daily practice eventually overwhelms anything that might disrupt it. It’s very hard to do this practice if I eat too much, if I stay up too late, if my mind is turbulent. My sadhana pushes me towards choosing the sattvic, the peaceful elements in life. And, ultimately, I don’t mind the small sacrifices, because the practice brings me something far greater. The more I practice, the richer and more magical life becomes. As Sri K Pattabhi Jois said, “Everywhere you look you see God.”

By immersing ourselves in the practice, following the prescriptions of tradition, we come up against our self imposed limitations. Over and over again, our commitment is tested; if we are to keep practicing, then we need to keep changing.

David Robson is the co-owner and director of the Ashtanga Yoga Centre of Toronto. With 100+ students each morning, he leads one of the world’s largest Mysore programs. After completing degree in Comparative Religion, David made his first trip to Mysore, India in 2002, where he initiated studies with his teacher Sharath Jois. Since then he has returned annually to deepen and enrich his practice and teaching. David teaches workshops and retreats around the world, and he recently released a popular DVD on vinyasa, Learn To Float. He is Level-2 Authorized by the Sri K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute.

Photo credit: EK Park

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49 Responses to “My Sadhana Is Taking Over My Life. ~ David Robson”

  1. Thaddeus1 says:

    Thank you David. You have managed to capture and convey so many fine points of wisdom in this piece in very simple and straightforward language. I think that one is truly only able to achieve such things when speaking from the foundation of personal realizations. So, thank you again.

    Posting to  Elephant Ashtanga. Like  Elephant Ashtanga on Facebook.

  2. […] My Sadhana Is Taking Over My Life. ~ David Robson | elephant journal. […]

  3. MELFER says:

    Yes, but sadhana is more than commitment and discipline to the physical practice. It is commitment to our jobs, to our goals to our own personal Dharma.

  4. Shanti Barclay says:

    Thank-you David. I was once poking fun at my nephew who, at 35 had not settled down yet (i.e. got married)
    . He said to me, "I like my freedom, Shants". My father overhead and said, "commitment is freedom".

  5. Isaac says:

    Classy, deleting comments. Because penis is a bad word and Sanskrit is can't possibly have meanings that aren't "spiritual" and self-righteous.

  6. Shirly says:

    Thank you David, this is so inspiring. My practice used to be irregular until recently when I commit myself to a daily early morning practice. I started to 'plan' my routine – light dinner, sleep before 11pm, no more late nights. Even my partner was very amazed by my discipline! Something shifted inside me. I know I will never look back again. Like you said – the more I practice, the richer and more magical life becomes!

  7. Deb Williams says:

    David, thank you so much for this post. When my partner travels to Mysore next month, I will have to rise at the very wee hours of the morning to do my practice before our students arrive at 5:30 am as I am going to be covering. When I read things like this I know that I am not alone or crazy and that I just have this practice that has so enriched my life as you say. Things are truly better and I can be better in relationships and life because I have a practice. Thank you and I look forward to meeting you! Namaste

  8. David, your story is quite an inspiration. I agree that daily discipline is a huge part of being a yogi. It is through this discipline that we become truly free!

  9. Nicole says:

    And I love the fact that we are all up in th eearly hours, probably with a cup of lemon+ginger tea, responding to this article! We all know instinctively why we do it and what led us there, but it's beautiful to see those reasons captured in writing — like a photograph of our commitment.

  10. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    David, we are grateful you are here!

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Join us! Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
    Follow on Twitter

  11. chiara_ghiron says:

    from the Hatha Yoga Pradipika… yoga perishes by these six: overeating, overexertion, talking too much, performing needless austerities, socialising and restlessness

      • chiara_ghiron says:

        so…. "Sometimes I’m so tired, later in the day, that I’ll actually fall asleep mid-conversation" somehow sounds in contradiction to yogic principles of balance and equanimity (I am thinking about the delicate abhyasa-vairagya balance).
        What do you think in this respect?

        • David Robson says:

          Being tired from one's sadhana is not one of the obstacles to yoga, but a side-effect. Swami Svatmarama was referring to activities that are unrelated to our practice, and draw us away from yoga. Austerities performed without a connection to liberation are ego building, and ultimately they are not helpful to our practice. Over-exertion that is not in the service of yoga will be taxing, and will take our energy away from our practice. However, both austerities and exertion are necessary components in our pursuit of yoga, just as fatigue is a natural outcome.

          Being tired doesn't have to impinge on our attempts at either abhyasa and vairagya. After all, fatigue is just another vritti.

    • lek says:

      Thanks. Nicely put, though I feel the article has a good point.

  12. ntathu allen says:

    Lovely to read your article and be reminded of the power of the written word and others personal story to inspire. Last few weeks my personal practice has slipped-so this is nice prod to help me get back into routine. namaste and hugs

  13. SitaraBird says:

    Thank you for this! It resonates with me, most definitely. A lot of realization of this, as of late. 🙂

  14. Dan Neumann says:

    Thanks for this post, David. I've been struggling a lot lately to keep consistent. I kinda know the things I need to change but have been slow in instituting them. Your comments have helped me regains some focus.

    • david says:

      Hi Dan. I find there are phases to the practice. Sometimes it comes easier, sometimes it's very hard. The longer we go, the less these phases impinge on practice. Still, I hope it gets easier for you soon. dr

  15. dharma_singh says:

    How nice it is to hear someone else's story – I have had an early morning practice for many years (4:30 am) and people look at me like I have 2 heads when I tell them. But nobody can understand how enriching it is unless they actually do it. Anything that does not contribute to your practice gets eliminated, anything that supports your practice gets adopted and the whole cycle gets stronger and stronger. I believe this is the difference between yoga practice and yoga dharma. Dharma takes over your life. Thanks for sharing your story.

  16. lek says:

    Hi there,
    I liked this. Thanks a lot.

  17. Valerie Carruthers says:

    Wonderful sadhana share. Ultimately sadhana isn't just time on the mat or at work or….at anything. It's what and who you are, seeing God everywhere because you know that God is you and everything "outside" simply reflects that.

  18. Oana says:

    Very inspiring and actually really resonates as of late. Will be forever grateful for ‘accidentally’ discovering Ashtanga yoga at your studio, thank-you,Namaste!

  19. […] My Sadhana Is Taking Over My Life. ~ David Robson […]

  20. Amy says:

    thanks so much for your article. Very inspiring. I used to wake up at 5:00am to practice asana but now I wake up @ 6:30 to meditate before my kids wake up. I homeschool my three children, and after so many years of frustration of trying to practice my spirituality and raise children, I've come to the relization that raising my kids is my sadhana. I practice yoga on a daily basis but I'm no longer falling asleep (from early morning practice) while with my kids. I practice yoga in the afternoon, sometimes evening. I could perhaps be more disciplined….so much to do and hardly enough time to do it all. Thank you David!

  21. […] aspects of this beautiful practice of yoga and implementing all sorts of new additions into my sadhana. I can only teach what I practice, I can only share what I know. That’s the way it […]

  22. […] as our teachers guided us through a process to meet our practice companion for the training, our sadhana (discipline in pursuit of a goal) […]

  23. […] yoga, we know this as Sadhana. We work daily as a practice on our own inner evolution. This anti-victim evolution is where we take […]

  24. […] asanas (yoga poses), we often miss the larger picture of yoga philosophy and the understanding of a disciplined yogic […]

  25. […] Purifying personal desires toward a more enduring purpose is important. But also extending our reach beyond the safe and familiar forms of comfort must happen. As individuals this means facing our shadows and demons internally, through actions, like meditation and sadhana. […]

  26. […] fixed to the degree that your father karma remains un-resolved or un-healed. That’s what yoga sadhana can do. It can heal, resolve, and complete that which needs to be healed, resolved, and completed […]

  27. jagadish Prasad says:

    Strange! I have settled down in Mysore being an old Mysorean who has returned after 40 years of living in various parts of the country. What I find strange is that so few us practise Yoga. Really what makes you so different in a nice sort of way. Hey! Thanks for inspiring me to take up yoga again., Gentle Surya Namaskar for starters.

  28. Arnaud says:

    Yoga is not about this. I just read a judeo christian point of view, and wrong traductions of sanskrit words that do only bring us to new limits. You can wake up at 3 am and practice for 2 hours. You could wake up at 2 am and practice for 3 hours. Nobody cares. Nobody should care. This is intimity. There are much deeper things to say about Yoga when you stop using it as another way to exist.

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