Your First 40-Day Sadhana
Once you’ve gotten started with Kundalini Yoga, you may be wondering what’s next? How do you go from sporadic dabbling to sustainable practice?
The role that yoga plays in your life is unique to you, and you are always encouraged to follow the path that feels most appropriate for you. But if you are feeling inspired to try going deeper with your practice, you may be ready to try out what a more consistent yogic lifestyle feels like through sadhana.
Sadhana, or daily practice, is a core piece of many yogic traditions. It is through consistent practice that you develop discipline, as well as a deeper experience of the practice. In Kundalini Yoga, it is common to choose a single practice to do for 40, 90, 120, or even 1,000 days. If this is your first time doing a daily sadhana, it’s recommended that you start with the classic 40-day version.
Committing to doing the same kriya each day for 40 days has two main benefits:
- It’s hard to make time to do something every day! Just making the commitment to prioritize your wellbeing is transformational.
- The repeated practice of a single kriya also allows you to really develop an awareness of and relationship with that practice. You can’t really know what the experience of a kriya is until you’ve gotten to know both it and yourself. It takes time to experience change. According to yogic philosophy, 40 days is the amount of time it takes to develop a new habit and really internalize the effects of the kriya.
Choosing What to Practice
If this is your first time doing a 40 day sadhana, you probably don’t want to pick a two-hour, high-intensity kriya, which will be very difficult to actually practice for 40 days in a row.
In fact, it’s best if you start with something that might not feel challenging at all. The truth is that anything you commit to doing for 40 days in a row will be a challenge sometimes, so you can set yourself up for success by starting with something you can actually look forward to. Keep in mind that while it is common to choose a kriya to practice, you could also do something as simple as 3 minutes of long deep breathing every day, or 11 minutes of chanting any mantra. (We’ve also got some suggestions for your first sadhana practice at the bottom of this article.)
A huge part of the sadhana experience is simply making the commitment and seeing it through. Therefore, try not to stress too much about choosing exactly the right practice, and simply allow yourself to have the experience of commitment to your practice. You can always do another 40-day practice with a different kriya in the future.
Building the Habit
Practicing sadhana is not just about rushing to check off the box each day saying that you completed your kriya. More than anything, it is about allowing yourself to establish a new habit, one in which you make the time to nourish your body and connect with your soul. Therefore, how you show up each day is as important as what you practice. Here are some tips to keep you in the flow and moving forward:
In case we haven’t said it enough, start small! A sadhana of even just a few minutes can make a profound transformation in your life. It’s better to choose something you know you can do every day and practice showing up for yourself than to get overwhelmed halfway through and have to stop. Remember this is just one step in a lifelong journey with yourself. There will always be more room to grow.
Create Your Environment
Whether you like it or not, your environment determines your behavior, and habits thrive in environments that were made for them. If you are shaking up your lifestyle by introducing this new element into it, you may benefit from shaking up your environment as well. Designate a place where you will practice your daily sadhana, and make sure it is set up for success. If you use a yoga mat, make sure it’s already in the spot. If you like to use an altar, or light candles, make sure they’re always set up with a lighter on hand. Making your physical space a priority can help remind you to make the mental space a priority. In the future you may not always need these physical reminders, but they’re an excellent support when you’re exploring a dedicated practice like this for the first time.
Commit to the Experience
If there’s one thing any seasoned meditator can tell you: it’s to leave your expectations at the door. Whatever your ideas about how this 40-day practice may or may not go, you can be sure that you’re in for something else entirely.
That might mean your expectations of the practice itself might turn out to be much harder than you expected, or much easier! It might also mean that despite all your best efforts, you’re not actually able to complete your sadhana every day, or that the emotions that come up before or after your practice are very different than you expected.
All of these outcomes are fine and perfect. Stay committed to the journey, not to the destination. And remember, it’s all just an experiment. You can’t go in expecting to already know the result. You just commit to continuing, and find out what it teaches you.
Don't Miss Twice
When you start your 40 days, you are probably expecting to complete all 40 days. Of course it is natural to start with the best of intentions. But don’t let your best intentions get in the way of your good reality. What often happens when someone misses a day of their sadhana is that they can jump immediately to deciding that they’ve failed, and therefore there is no point in continuing. It is disheartening to miss a day if you were committed to the streak, but it is NOT failure.
According to habit-expert James Clear, it is not the streak itself that determines a habit, it’s what you do after a slip-up. People who give up after a single mistake are building the habit of defeat. People who make sure that one missed day doesn’t become two are building the habit of getting up after a fall. It’s okay if you miss a day, but get back up and keep going.
Choose Your Time
If you choose a time of day when you’re going to commit to doing your sadhana, you are much more likely to actually see it through. The amrit vela, before sunrise, is the traditional time for many yogis, but you do NOT have to get up at 4 in the morning to have an effective sadhana.
If you know that the most realistic time to meditate each day is going to be on your lunch break, or right before bed, that’s totally fine. Being honest about your schedule at the start will make you more likely to build the momentum to get through to the end.
Don’t sweat it if you don’t always meet your schedule. Life will happen, and there will be days when you don’t meditate on time. Nearly everyone who commits to a daily sadhana has had the experience of sleepily meditating at midnight after a long day, just because there was not a single minute available earlier. Do your best, roll with the punches, and keep going.
Embrace Your Experience
Sadhana is by definition a challenge, so don’t expect it to be wonderful all the time. Even if you pick a meditation you love, doing any practice for 40 days will likely bring up things from your subconscious that aren’t always fun. Treasure all of it as part of your experience.
At the same time, don’t expect it to be awful all the time either! Doing a 40-day meditation is often a challenge, but that doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong if you’re having a blast and looking forward to your meditation as the best part of each day. If that’s the case, congratulations!
Keep a Journal
This can take any form you like, but having some record of your experience on day 40 will be a valuable way to look back and see the full journey. You may want to record how the practice itself has felt for you on a given day, any particular thoughts or insights that come up for you, and what is going on in the rest of your life and psyche.
You’re ready to do your first 40-day sadhana! We hope you’re fired up to deepen your experience with yourself, with Kundalini Yoga, and with your own divinity and potential.