Sadhana: Daily Practice

Nirmal Lumpkin

One of the foundational practices in Kundalini Yoga is called Sadhana.  The actual word "Sadhana" can be translated in many ways:

  • doing what the teacher told you to do
  • pre-dawn meditation
  • daily practice of yoga
  • cultivating a life of service
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Sadhana is a commitment to connect to your soul and clean out the patterns of your mind.  One of my favorite lines from Japji says (loosely translated):  

When the body is dirty, you wash it with water.  When the clothes are dirty you wash them with soap.  When the mind is dirty you wash it with meditation and chanting.  

For me sadhana is usually not easy....and usually not blissful.  It is a challenge each day to get myself to sit down and do some yoga.  But without fail I always notice that days when I manage to do yoga and meditate before I leave the house....are better days.  I get more done, feel more connected to myself and less reactive to the people or situations in my life.  Even so, I sometimes find that my ego wins and I slip out of doing a daily practice.  So, I have to re-dedicate myself to my practice on a regular basis.  I like to use milestones to get myself re-invested: the 40 days before my birthday, the Solstice, the new year....all of these are great reasons to start (or re-start a practice).  But is today...and tomorrow....any day that you can make some time is a good day to practice.  

One of the things we find when we practice on a regular basis is just how much our mind and state of being change from moment to moment.  I am NOT the same person I was mind when I sit in meditation is spinning it's new story today.  But if I can stay steady, and keep practicing no matter what my mind (or the world) is doing....I can start to find the thing in me that doesn't shift from day to day.  You might call it Soul or Truth or Self or maybe, even, God.  But there is something there that feels peaceful, blissful, steady and safe…. And when I do my sadhana I feel that thing more often and more expansively in all moments of my life.

Kundalini Yoga- In the Flow

Julie Sampuranjeet Hartmans

Recently, a woman I met 18 months ago, & whom I really like & respect, asked me what I got out of doing Kundalini yoga, what got me up in the  morning to practice. You see, in addition to taking classes, I do practice on my own, with the help of a book I bought.  So I've been thinking about that a lot.


Part of it is the physical exercise, of course. This type of yoga is perfect for me in that it's quite active. Those of you familiar with other types of yoga know that they mostly involve fairly static asanas (aka poses). In Kundalini yoga, on the other hand, you are often moving throughout the exercise. The other thing that's different is that the asana, whether static or active, is held longer, sometimes for as long as five minutes (or more)! Of course, during that time, if you need to, you can come out of the pose, rest, & then go back into it. I have been excited to find I can now do poses that I couldn't a year ago; my body is definitely becoming stronger  & more limber. Flexibility has always been an issue for me, so this is gratifying.

One of the hardest things for me when first doing Kundalini is that many of the asanas are done in what's called "easy seated pose." This is sitting in what is now called pretzel style (the non-PC term of my childhood was Indian style). I recently apologized to my teacher for giving her grief about that term "easy" in one of my early classes - even as a young child, sitting like that was never comfortable for me! With the help of a pillow (& another sign of progress: I recently had to buy a lower one) I can now sit like this quite comfortably & for quite some time, but it was really difficult at first.

Most other yoga styles in the West really focus on the asanas, the physical piece of the practice. In truth there are other aspects of yoga that are also very powerful. Pranayam, or breath work, is one aspect of yoga that Kundalini includes, & that I love. Often during an asana,  we do what's called Breath of Fire. It is a panting breath, through the nose, and you really draw in your tummy muscles as you powerfully exhale. It's highly detoxifying and intensifies the effect of a pose. Alternate nostril breathing, where you close off one nostril on the inhale & the other on the exhale, is another example of pranayam that is used in Kundalini yoga.

And of course, the mantra/meditation piece of Kundalini yoga is what first brought me to this practice. Chanting on a regular basis has brought me so much! So much peace, so much joy, so much ease. I feel like I don't have to struggle any longer with life. It truly is amazing. I have a sense of flow, something I've witnessed & wondered at in a few friends over the years, but which I've never felt before. This is quite recent, within the last 3-4 months, I'd say... new enough that I'm still wondering if it will last.  More & more, I'm settling into this fresh sense of well-being, learning to trust the universe at a level more profound than ever before. What a blessing!

The goal of Kundalini yoga is the free flow of energy through the body's chakra system. All the asanas, breath work, chanting, and other activities are put together in such a way as to put you on a fast track to achieve this goal.  In my experience, it works!

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Boundaries in your Head.

By: Nirmal Lumpkin

The other day I was taking care of my 3-year-old nephew.  It was a beautiful day and we were both excited to get outside and play.  As we were headed out the door I wanted to review with him his “boundaries.”  He is allowed to ride his bike by himself to the “pointy-bushes” about half way down the block.    

“Where are your boundaries?” I asked him


“In my head.”  Was his spot-on reply. 

While this wasn’t exactly the answer I was looking for it was a perfect and poignant message.  All of us would do well to remember that our boundaries really are only in our heads!

I liken this to a box.  When we’re growing up we keep putting things into the box of “Stuff I Can Do.”  Ride a bike?  In the box.  Learn a new language?  In the box.  Take up archery?  In the box!

But then, at some point, we stop putting new stuff in the box.  We start to get comfortable with the skills (physical and emotional) that we’ve accumulated so far and we stop stretching ourselves to grow, try new things, fail sometimes and expand our box.  Pretty soon the idea of trying anything that isn’t already in our box (that is to say that we’re not ALREADY good at) is scary and we just refuse to do it.

The reality is though …that box was just an illusion from the start.  We have within us already the capacity to be boundless, infinitely powerful and hugely transformative in our own, and other peoples, lives.  What we find when we start to practice yoga, meditation or serious self-reflection is that when we reach our hand out to find that firm edge of our box….where we KNOW our limits lay….our hand passes right through like a mirage.  We don’t have limits.  All of our boundaries are self-imposed by our own minds!

For children, all of those boundaries between what they are and are not capable of don’t exist.  They are still in the open receptive space to know that anything they want to be or do in this life is possible.  If we allow ourselves to go back to the child-like mentality we find that we too are capable of anything.  We are boundless.  When we drop our mental boundaries, open up to the Divine flow and put our honest desires and efforts out there….magical things happen.

Today I will take note whenever I come up against one of those mental boundaries.  Any time I find myself thinking “I can’t_____”  or “I’m not ______ enough” I will visualize that wall of my box vanishing before my eyes.  Because; I can and I am.  I choose to ride my bike past those pointy bushes and into the infinite space of possibility.

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Breath: The Aspects of Kundalini Series

Nirmal Lumpkin

“The main problem in the world is stress.  It is not going to decrease- it is going to increase.  If through pranayam the shock can be harnessed, the entire stress and disease can be eliminated.” Yogi Bhajan

The breath is one of the few things we do that can be either completely unconscious and dictated by muscle memory, survival instinct and habit OR it can be completely consciously regulated for particular purposes.  The way we breathe has a powerful effect on how we feel in any given moment.  When we learn to breath more deeply, smoothly, fully and slowly we more easily relax and savor life. 

Prana= Life force  //  Yama= Control

So, Pranayams are techniques to control the breath.  By controlling the breath we control our state of mind, emotion and health.  Kundalini Yoga has a deep well of pranayam techniques to try for example,

G Breath of Fire is an immune booster

G Sitali pranayam calms and cools in intense situations

G Suspending the breath out helps us work through our fears

G Segmented breaths build mental alertness

One of the great things about having a few breath techniques in your yogic toolkit is that breath can really be used at any time, by almost anyone in any situation.  Wherever you are right now…stop and take a long slow breath in through your nose, let your belly relax out as you do …. And then a long slow exhale through your nose, feel yourself sinking down into your chair as you do.  Do you feel more peaceful? Grounded? Or attentive than you did a moment I go?  (I do!) 

Nirmal's Breath Story

Confession time:  I was a reverse mouth-breather.  Whew!  There, I said it!  I remember being on a road trip when I was about 8.  Laying down on the bench seat in our wood-paneled mini van.  And watching my belly as I was breathing.  I noticed that as I was breathing air in my belly sucked in and I felt tightness in my chest and shoulders.  As we continued down the road and I continued to watch my belly all of the sudden I had this thought. “If the air is going IN shouldn’t my belly go OUT to make room for it?”  I tried making my belly move out when I inhaled….but it felt weird.  Also when I was younger my sister used to make fun of me for breathing  loudly through my mouth.  I would try breathing through my nose instead ….but after a few breaths I would feel like I was running out of air and have to take a big gulp of air to catch up.

These incidents stuck in my mind…but I didn’t give them a lot of weight until I started taking lots of yoga classes.  When I began learning the basics of correct breathing patterns I realized my reverse-mouth breathing was not only weird and loud but that it was also the opposite of an ideal breath!  My 8-year-old insight was correct….your belly should expand to make room for the air when you breath in.  (And much to my chagrin my older sister was sort of  right….you should breath through your nose not because it is quieter but because breathing thorough our nose is gentler on your body).  It was many months of practice of yoga and paying attention to my breathe before I started to re-train my body in correct breathing.  Over time I have found a greater ease with a yogic breath and it makes me feel alive, grounded, peaceful and calm. 

Breath work, and your experience of it, continues to change so much as you move forward on your path.  I am still finding newness in my breath of fire…there are still moments where I settle into it in a new way.  There are still insights for me at the end of a long breath hold.  There are still times I feel amazed at the power of pranayam.  

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Awaken Your Creative Power

Nicole Nardone

I believe we are all the artists of our own lives.  That is true creativity.  There is the type of artist who makes things with their hands - poems, pictures.  And then there is the kind of artist who is constantly creating herself.  This is the artist who makes their whole life a work of art. Their being is the medium.  (And yes, you can be both :) ).

This true artistry is what makes us human.  We are meant to be co-creators of our lives.  We are meant to play with spirit and matter, weave worlds together.  We are meant to take the entire fabric of our lives, the joys and the losses, and create the masterpiece. This masterpiece is our truth. Each of us was born with a masterpiece inside of us. Our task is to step aside, and let it be seen.

But how do we do this?  How can we be the creators of our own lives? How do we let our masterpiece be seen?

I believe this sacred creative process begins by tuning in to the deep self.  And by that I mean tuning in to what is most sacred to you, what is most important to you.  What gives you the feeling of being part of something larger than you?  What is your why?  Why do you do what you do?

This is the first step.  This is what people mean when they say, “when you know who you are, you know what to do.”  This larger desire, this why of your existence is the well that holds your creative power.  It is the container.  It is you.

And the container is always shifting.  You are always changing.  Life is happening.  And you can’t stop it!  That’s why it’s absolutely essential to stay attuned to your why, and allow your creative self to spring forth from that place.

Once you are attuned to yourself, your deeper knowings, that is when you become the artist of your own life.  It becomes easier to make decisions because you are attuned.  You’re able to see your gifts clearly because you recognize they are sacred treasures.  You are able to speak your truth because you feel it bubbling up from a space in you so secure and confident that it would be crazy not to express it!

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