IV:28-30 Sadhana, the Practice of Yoga…

These verses paint a picture of Yoga sadhana and present us with the kinds of things that happen inside and outside of meditation that prepare the way for the equanimity of union with the Divine. 

Yoga – union.

Sadhana – spiritual practices: ‘the means of obtaining proof and mastery; the means of bringing about fulfillment, completion, perfection.’

Physical-material sacrifices, purification, yoga, self-inspection and the study of the scriptures are sacrifices offered by sincere aspirants.

“Sacrifices offered by sincere aspirants” – forms of sadhana performed by determined aspirants.

Physical-material sacrifices. In meditation: spontaneous actions of body, breath and energy. Outside meditation: living simply, selfless service, monetary gifts, food, etc. to the teacher.

Purification. In meditation: spontaneous purification of body, mind and feelings. Outside meditation: attention to diet, the practice of yama and niyama, asana, pranayama.

Any kind of spiritual path taken to the full will involve purification, whether through purification techniques or purification brought on by yoga itself.

Purification is one way to understand the Sanskrit word tapas, the third niyama. Usually translated as ‘austerity’, tapas means ‘to burn, melt down, warm’. This gives us a clue as to the kind of purification that is going to come of yoga itself. Whereas physical purification usually takes place by impurities leaving the body, when purification is achieved through yoga, impurities of all kinds melt away (tapas).

Yoga. In meditation: spontaneous asana, pranayama, pratyahara and union (samyama: concentration, meditation, samadhi). Outside of meditation: asana and pranayama.

Self-inspection and Study. In and out of meditation: contemplation and self-referencing with self-honesty, contemplation on the self and the Self; studying scripture, listening to and reading scriptural teachings, receiving oral teachings, teaching others.

A sincere aspirant will not stop just because he or she is taken out of their comfort zone. To do this is to refuse progress, for progress involves change, and change is rarely comfortable.

Other offerings are apana into prana, and prana into apana. Another offering is both prana and apana, restraining the movement of the life energy.

The offering of “apana into prana and prana into apana” is, on the surface, a reference to breathing out and breathing in, which is how some translations are worded. But it is also a specific pranayama (anulomaviloma) in which the breath is taken in through the left nostril (apana), held for a time, and released through the right nostril (prana), then repeated in reverse beginning with the right nostril. This is a very relaxing and balancing breath that anyone can practice.

The offering of “both prana and apana” results in “restraining the movement of the life energy” as the breath is held. Another, deeper way to understand this though, is that kundalini awakens with the marriage of prana and apana; their mutual ‘restraint’ is then understood as kumbhaka. From this point of view, it is a description of how kundalini is awakened and paves the way to the breathless state and samadhi.

Also, restraining food or livelihood is an offering of prana into prana. These are sacrifices made by sacrifice-knowers whose stains are diminished or destroyed through their sacrifices.

Stains – The Sanskrit for ‘stains’ refers to karma that has an injurious effect on oneself or others, and nullifies ‘good’ karma.

One of the first ways people try to improve their lives is through diet, which is reflected in this last form of sacrifice. The sacrifice of ‘restraining food’ as an offering of prana into prana, indicates that this sacrifice is made by means of intention, or will. However, with the practice of natural yoga, attention to diet comes about naturally.   

The Sanskrit word for ‘restraining food’ includes ‘livlihood’ and may be interpreted as living simply, which also comes about naturally for one who takes their sadhana to the full. A yogi has no time or interest in working for a living in the fast lane.


Verses 24-30 tell of different kinds of sacrifices, the various ways people do sadhana to diminish their ‘stains’. This brings more ease into their lives as they enjoy more inspiring meditation experiences, and augment their progress.

Verses 24-30:
24-25 All Is God and So Are You
26-27 Direct Perception

Does everyone who takes up the spiritual journey always run into these same things? In one lifetime or another, yes, and in every lifetime to some degree, all of them. To know what they are is to take aim and score!

Namaste (I bow to the Divine One that You really are),
Durga Ma

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4 thoughts on “IV:28-30 Sadhana, the Practice of Yoga…

  1. Dear Ritam,

    The Gita says that no progress is ever lost. You can trust that. The turmoils of life make it seem so, because they affect the conditions in which we live and this affects our sadhana. But already you have your Self. Dwell on That. The Guru Gita says that God, Guru and the Self are the same, and gives this as the reason one should seek a Guru. You have done all this. You are in a better position than you realize.

    My suggestion to you is to go after sadhana the way a little girl would go after a tea party with friends. Pretend. Pretend that everything is alright, and everything will be alright. I don’t think you need sadhana guidance, but I am here anytime you need or want.

    As to scripture, keep it simple. I would suggest that you stick with me on this Bhagavad Gita roll, and pick up anything you may have missed. You will be able to read between the lines and get more out of it than I can put into the limitations of a blog page, and more scriptures will make their way into your studies over time. You don’t have to do everything at once.

    I periodically back off this way myself: I quit the Pashupat Sutras, the Shiva Samhita, etc., and go back to basics, i.e., the Bhagavad Gita. This current roll I’m on with the Gita came about in just such a way, and I have benefited from it immensely. I am already having an itch to do the Yoga Sutras, but will not get into it again just yet…..because of things coming up in my ‘life’!

    Keep me posted. And may your tapas increase!


  2. Dear Durga Ma,

    For most of this year my life has been in a terrible turmoil. I have faced others who have blamed, shamed, yelled at and accused me, all the while purporting to be professionals. Fortunately, I have seen progress in my ability to face and deal with others without falling to their level of lack of ability to communicate in a kind and caring manner and acknowledging them as divine, just as we all are.

    During all of this I have not maintained a meditation schedule and am not happy about it.
    There is ONLY ONE THING that remains constant and saves me every day: noticing that there is a part of Self that doesn’t move, change and isn’t affected by anything at all. That part is always there in me – it never isn’t there and any time I let my attention fall on it, there is nothing else. While it is peaceful, it isn’t a question of peace, it is just a lack of any disturbance at all. Would that this is all there is in life as well…

    On the surface, above this unmoving condition, I feel I have lost everything that may have been gained in sadhana previously. Again, I just don’t know where to start. Seems like I’m always starting over due to interruptions that occur in life, that I allow to interrupt my sadhana. i know just beginning with regular yog again is good, but where do I start with scripture? I feel I need to go back to the beginning of a scripture, all scriptures, as well as studying your writings on MT.

    May I please have your direct guidance?

    With love and pranams,


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