Mani Raman, founder and lead teacher at Yoga Vana India, presents the teachings of Swami Krishnananda in a summarized way on the benefits of having a systematic routine not only in our yogic practice, but in all our daily activities.
In times of overwhelm and stress from too much external stimulation, these practical teachings prepare our body and mind for the higher sadhana.
Art work © by Rohini Oberoi @kaivalya.yoga.art
“Why do we all feel stress and strain in life at some point, and why do we not like what we do?”
“What motivates us to work again and again, and keeps us moving from one idea to another?”
These were some of the questions that drew me to the science of yoga initially.
Though I have been teaching yoga for a long time and have been following the self-discipline with so much inner growth, there are days and weeks when there is an inner rebellion in me. For a few days, I give up my understanding and practice and fall back into normal life routine. Then I need some new inspiration to pursue my practice. I believe many practitioners of yoga go through what I go through in their sadhana, their spiritual practice.
My inner understanding became very clear after learning from the teachings of Swami Krishanananda, a senior disciple of Swami Sivananda. My sadhana continues successfully and there is a constant reminder in me why I should have a systematic discipline in the path of yoga.
What you will find below are the summarized teachings of Swami Krishnananda on the question of why we need a systematic daily routine, what its benefits are and how it is the foundation for our progress in yoga. I am sharing his teachings below with the hope that it will help students of yoga who may fail in their good intention from time to time, and struggle to have a consistent routine in their practice.
Dissatisfaction pushes us into action
Our mind feels the strain of life when it is discontent for any reason whatsoever. The strain of life is a combined effect of our thought, speech and action. The three go together, and work simultaneously. We cannot say which one preponderates at what time.
Contentment is something which most people do not know, because it is often dissatisfaction that pushes us into action. We are dissatisfied and, therefore, we work, but that should not be the motivating force for work. On the other hand, the reverse should be the case. We should work because we are satisfied. As a matter of fact, that work alone can be called healthy which is motivated by satisfaction. This satisfaction or contentment cannot be achieved by doing whatever we want to do or desire.
Minding one’s business
We misunderstand contentment as self-sufficient or self-complete – doing whatever we want to do and not being bothered by the external world is what we call freedom.
I mind my business and you mind your business; this is what we sometimes say. But it is not possible to mind one's business, because we have a cosmic business. It is an interrelated duty that has been made incumbent upon all that belong to the cosmos. Yoga is, therefore, a cosmic rise and not merely an individual performance in the corner of our room.
Adjusting with the cosmos
Yoga is not a physical action, it is not a physical movement; it is an internal adjustment of the mind to the unitariness of the Self and the non-objectivity of consciousness.
The niyamas mentioned by Patanjali are, generally speaking, the necessary disciplines of body, speech and mind that is an adjustment with the cosmos. A muddled head cannot practise yoga, and a busybody cannot practise yoga, because all distractions are contrary to the requirements of yoga.
Self-control and Self-realization are two aspects of yoga practice. For the sake of Self-realization, it is necessary for us to be self-controlled. On the one hand we restrain the self and on the other hand we realise the Self. The realization of the Self is possible only after the restraint of the self is properly achieved.
Why we reject discipline
But who loves self-discipline whole-heartedly and why we are averse to discipline? Because we have been brought up in an atmosphere of enjoyment of the senses and too much social contact. This is how we have been brought up by our parents, by our teachers, by our friends; and this education, this culture, this civilization, which has gone into our blood, makes it impossible for us to follow any system or any kind of discipline. It is, therefore, necessary to awaken ourselves into the seriousness of the matter. We should forget the past, as it is never too late to mend, and earnestly take to this practice.
Everything has its own time
In our personal conduct and daily activity, there should be a method and a procedure - which means to say, everything should have its own time. One of the essentials contributing to success is the method of working and the procedure of behaviour and conduct.
One must know when we will get up in the morning, what we will do after getting up, whom we will see, how much work we will do, what to say at what time, in what manner, what to eat when to eat, in what quantity and quality, and so on - including even such minute details as bathing, walking, the time of going to sleep, what we do before going to sleep, what should be around us and what should not be there. All this should be at our fingertips.
This is the discipline of the three essential factors, which are employed in our daily life: our body, our speech, and our thoughts.
This is method, this is system, this is niyama; and when this system is introduced into our life, we become ready for the higher practice. Each succeeding step becomes easy of approach and practice when the preceding step is firmly placed.
Reducing the overwhelm of too many things to do
This systematization in one’s life is essential, because a system also reduces the burden of work and the feeling that there are a lot of things to do. The feeling that we have a lot to do is mostly due to chaotic behaviour because we do not have a system that works successfully. We do anything at any time. We meet any person at any time, and say anything that comes to mind. This is the reason why we often feel that there is some strain in our head. The strain is due to the fact that the mind is unable to adjust itself to sudden changes of circumstance. But, if we are already prepared because we know what is to be done at what time, the strain will not be felt. The stresses and strains that we feel in our life - which have to be avoided in yoga, of course - are mostly due to unmethodical speaking, thinking and working.
It is, therefore, necessary to have a systematic daily routine. And this system should be repeated until it becomes solid in our being. But many of us feel that the repetition of the same practice again and again is boring and we want to do new things every day. This is very common for many students of yoga. Why do we need to make so much of preparation and stick with the same practice for some time?
Why we stick with the same practice for some time
The daily procedure should not vary, because the system, whatever be the nature of that system, is a reflection of perfection. Perfection is the greatest of systems, and inasmuch as yoga is a movement towards the highest perfection that is available anywhere, the practice, even in the lower stages, should also reflect this character. Even our time for going for a walk, such a simple thing as it is, may be a disciplined process.
It is said that this was the case with the German philosopher Immanuel Kant. He used to go for a walk at six o’clock, and everybody used to set their watch to it because it was exactly at the stroke of six. He never went five minutes earlier or five minutes later. Six o’clock meant six o’clock, and he went out for a walk.
Preparing for the consummation of meditation
Like a huge ceremony, celebration or function which may take place for one hour, but for which we go on making preparations for a month. For one month we work for a celebration that will take place for only one hour. Likewise, some great function is to take place in the form of yoga meditation, and for that so much preparation is being made. It is the glorious consummation that is called meditation, towards which we are moving; and the beauty of the function, and the perfection thereof, depend upon the meticulous care that we take in the preparations we make for it. There is no use laying too much stress merely on the achievement but only the function.
The idea that I need to move to advanced stages in my practice is due to a lack of this understanding.
Advancing step by step
Remember that we should not take an advanced step unless the earlier step is well placed. Hurry and too much enthusiasm are not called for. What is required is a pure, dispassionate understanding of our strengths as well as our weaknesses. Whatever our weaknesses are, they must be overcome by the strengths that we have. The body and the environment should be kept in such a condition that one feels spirited within oneself, uplifted in feelings, and light in one’s personality.
What is to be done to achieve this order in one’s life is an individual choice, according to one’s own conditions of living, strength of mind, and so on. But what it finally means in essence is that there should be a stipulated method of thinking, speaking and acting.
Then we will see that success is not far off even in the ordinary life of this world, not merely in the spiritual field, because method or system is the way by which we focus our energies and wherever there is a focusing of energy, there is strength - just as a focused beam of the sun’s rays can burn things, while the sun’s dissipated rays cannot.
Now How will you put this into practice?
After reading these lines, how will you put into practice what you have learned?
One possibility is to start a daily journal like displayed below (and yes, you can take Rohini’s as an inspiration). The journal can include your daily sadhana, but also any other activity that you would like to do on a regular basis, such as going for a walk, sitting in silence without doing anything for a few minutes a day, keeping your phone off after 8 PM, or going to bed at or before 10 PM. Becoming aware of our habits is the first step in progress!
Overcome the “all or nothing” attitude in your practice. Say, “I will move my body at least 30 minutes every day”. The amount of time is irrelevant, consistency is the key.
How can you bring more regularity into your daily routine? Where would you like to start, and how? Leave us a message below 🙏
Art work © by Rohini Oberoi (@kaivalya.yoga.art). You can find more of her beautiful creations and contact her on Instagram.