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Sadhana & the four levels of Yoga - A path to inner transformation

The concept of Sadhana is relatively new to mainstream yoga practitioners and whilst many people understand that regular daily practice is important, some would struggle to articulate why beyond the physical and relaxation benefits - in truth, spiritual evolution through yoga is experiential and even if the concept of sadhana is understood the practice is where it is truly understood - this is true for all levels of practitioners. 

This is a topic worth sitting with in order to stimulate our own self reflection on our relationship with Yoga. Sadhana is a term we may have encountered or maybe its completely new. Sadhana in context of the four levels of Yoga helps to distinguish it from yoga practice.  The main difference being that in sadhana you are working with a system vs practice that you do to alleviate something or meet the immediate need at hand, such as the need to de-stress or decompress.

Using the context of the four levels of Yoga can help bring light to the vital step of sadhana in the yogic journey.

The four levels of practice as outlined by Swami Niranjanananda are;

  1. Practice

  2. Sadhana

  3. Lifestyle

  4. Culture.

At the level of practice we can take it or leave it - our yoga is there to bring us some sense of relief or to help manage our busy minds or fragmented energy.  Once this need is met however, our relationship ends there.  We go to say a weekly or bi-weekly class, find that ease or meet that need and then its done.  At this level we don't have a need for sadhana.

When it comes to sadhana we are working with a system.  Each yoga has its own system which means its own established goals of that system & indicators of progression towards that goal.  The aims are clearly defined and we are working towards this in our consistent effort through sadhana.  

Yes, its something we do consistently, regularly with intent and purpose, but it also is about knowing where we are going and what the aim is that we are working towards.

Having a clear direction makes sense as it can help streamline our energy and focus.  Without clarity we can remain in the realm of sensation and allow that to dictate our practice, however we may never move beyond that, as sensation is endless, you can get lost in that and this is what I see a lot of in our modern landscape of Yoga.  

Yoga Asana - lunge pose
Sensation helps to develop awareness

In the beginning, discovering and working with sensation is an essential part of fostering self awareness, it helps us to tune into our bodies and feelings and generates inner knowledge.  Working with sensations helps us to bridge into underlying forces we may be unaware of currently and bring to light what the underlying causes of imbalance might be. 

A lot of the therapeutic based yoga brands today rely on this basic understanding. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with this, it's just that it is in a bigger sense of yoga - just that - basic.

Moving beyond sensation is about leaning more into the breath and that as a doorway into prana - energy and its interconnection with the mind.  Sadhana then, is about working with mind and prana within the parameters of a system to obtain your goal in Yoga. 

It's taking on board the inclusivity of Yamas & Niyamas and lifestyle practices related to the system you are working with.  

The inclusion of these broadens our relationship with Yoga and helps to rectify and fine tune our mental

Yoga Lifestyle connections
Yoga Community

perceptions and ultimately our daily expressions. 

For example in Hatha Yoga there are five main limbs to it.  Starting with shatkarma, asana, pranayama, mudra & bandha.  So, if you are working with a system you are working with all aspects of it, not just the asana component. 

Hatha has clearly defined aims that include the purification of energy, expansion of prana and awakening of the potentials within each subtle center.  By knowing this one can begin to discover the subtle forces that shape our daily experiences and begin to work with them in an intentional way. 

As a natural outcome of working with a system we come to yoga lifestyle.  The third level of Yoga.  Here, there is an integration of experience and expression.  Regular practice is coupled with daily habits and routines that extend awareness generated into life. 

At this level, change is inevitable and one is ready to lean into the transformational aspects that yoga brings.  There is an orchestration of balancing one's inner and outer worlds to establish harmony and a sense of being in the flow.  We recognise when this natural law expresses itself in our lives and equally when its not. 

Vedic Yoga practice - Havan
Daily yoga rituals and routines

Without lifestyle integration, the effects of sustained and regular practice dwindle away. Even with the best intentions to work with a system, any positive internal shifts have not yet found their way into your kitchen, into your relationships, into your environment.  

When it comes to the fourth level of culture - there is no separation.  Life is yoga, yoga is life.  

We recognise those people who emanate yoga and to meet such a person elevates us, often out of our logical minds.  We feel refreshed around such people and inspired by them.  This is the realm of spiritual teachers, gurus & elevated souls who exist for the purpose to uplift others through being a living example of mastery of the systems, sadhana and practices of Yoga. 

Ayurvedic Yoga Food
Ayurvedic recipes for Yoga

So, these four levels can be useful to bring context to our relationship to yoga.  If we are honest with ourselves we can ask the question - what is my relationship with Yoga?  Am I satisfied with where I am at or could I lean in further? 

Sometimes we think we have reached the destination, but then come to realize there is so much more and if Yoga teaches us anything it's that we are scratching the surface of a very deep & ancient technology.

Wherever you are on your yoga journey, it's in the realm of evolving practice, self reflection and expanding awareness that the answers are found.  

Om shanti - Pragyadhara

Learn more about our upcoming training here including dates and pricing.

Feel free to reach out with any questions by email -

We look forward to taking you on this journey.

Om shanti Pragyadhara


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