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From “Kundalini Yoga, Sadhana Guidelines, 2nd Edition,” published by Kundalini Research Institute, Espanola, NM. This article "Process and Progress in Sadhana" was written by Gurucharan Singh Khalsa, PhD., pp. 27-29.  Used with permission.  To order this foundational manual with text, yoga kriyas and meditations, please go to .

“Sadhana” is usually described simply as daily spiritual practice and can take many forms.  The form that Yogi Bhajan gave to be done daily, in a group if possible in the clear and magical morning hours called the “Amrit Vela” is: 

3:45 AM—Recitation of the exquisite prayer of Truth called “Japji Sahib.”

4:05 AM Kundalini Yoga set (as taught by Yogi Bhajan) and layout. 

4:45 AM “The Aquarian Sadhana Meditation”—mantra chants and songs

6 AM Gurdwara—Hymn, prayer and lesson for the day from the scriptures. 


The practice of sadhana is a continuous refinement of the self and it has a natural progression through stages.  The three classical stages that one goes through (over time of daily practice) are sadhana, aradhana, and prabhupati.  Roughly translated, these mean discipline, attitude, and aptitude or mastery.  Note that the word “sadhana” is used in two ways:  Sadhana is the overall practice, with all its stages; and it is one of the three stages that we pass through as we master ourselves, and our Sadhana.  “Sadhana” and “sadhana.”  The three steps are inseparable, each supporting and developing the others.

Sadhana refines the quality and develops the characteristics of our consciousness as human beings:  The stages reflect steps on the way toward the mastery of our habits; the techniques used in sadhana lessen the sway of our ego; the process of refinement reflects the crystallization of our awareness and caliber.  Sadhana is a process to refine human awareness, burn off the old patterns and clean out the subconscious.  Yogi Bhajan called this refinement, self-crystallization.  The ideal is to make your mind a diamond-mind, with a flawless gem quality worthy of the greatest museums.  He describes this self-crystallization process:

You cannot achieve in life, you cannot crystallize yourself in your life without discipline.  There are scientific terms we are all familiar with:  distillation, sublimation and crystallization. 

Distillation is to purify.  That is the everyday sadhana that we do.  It is a distillation to remove impurities like a filter.  Sublimation is next.  It is more subtle and complete.  It is the transformation of something to a higher state of energy.  Sublimation leaves all deeply imbedded impurity behind.  It is just like taking a block of sulfur and heating it up so all the sulfur becomes a vapor and the impurities remain below.  That is what kirtan is—sublimation through word.  Last is crystallization.  When purification is advanced, you collect the substance around a single pure crystal.  Even that process of refinement has steps and stages.  The seed must be perfect.  The temperature and environments must be constant.  If all things are held steady in perfection then you get a perfect gem.  Usually the resulting crystallization has four levels of quality.  The most familiar is “opague” or raw rock from.  It is the right substance, but it may be covered on the surface and have many flaws.  The third quality is the “gem state.”  That is beautiful.  It has few to no flaws and can carry clear light.  The fourth quality is very rate indeed.  It is flawless, with perfect structure and strength.  That gem has a perfect cut in its facets and can reflect everything perfectly, with no distortions

The above is from a lecture by Yogi Bhajan.  The transcript is found in the publication “Women in Training XII,”  1987, p. 134.

Crystallization is complete when what began as a goal-oriented effort becomes a spontaneous expression of joy, gratitude and love in a living discipline that arises from within our consciousness, seamlessly imbued in each moment, action by action.  These stages are similar to the four stages referred to in Vedanta as waking, dreaming, deep sleep, and awakened sleep—turiya. 

The first (waking) is opaque and narrow, attached and self-concerned.  The second (dreaming) is imaginative, elaborative and creative.  The third (deep sleep) is filled with stillness and the ability to know many things intuitively; one can leave the ego and perceive or heal without the limits of distance or time.  The last state (awakened sleep) knows the Infinite in the finite form.  It is dwelling in God, flowing with dharma, acting in synchrony and harmony with the flow of the greater Being and one’s destiny.  It is neutral and reflects all things accurately.  It is intuition—immanent and embodies—in constant spontaneous creativity.  This is only achieved by going through the three stages of practice: sadhana, aradhana, and finally, prabhupati.

The first step is daily sadhana, which we’ve defined in broader terms but here, we explore sadhana as expressed in personal practice.  Sadhana means any practice of self-correction that provides the mind and body with a disciplined procedure to express the Infinite within one’s self.  It is a practice that aligns your cycles, patterns, and mental and emotional reactions so that they support your purpose, your values and your goals.  It is a time each day to notice all the negative habits that lead you away from higher consciousness and to eliminate the desires underlying those habits one-by-one—step-by-step.

This is a conscious activity.  It is not automatic.  You consciously choose to wake up in the early hours of the morning instead of sleeping.  You consciously exercise the body and exalt the Infinite in your heart with your voice and projected attitude.  Each day—you are different.  Every 72 hours most of the cells of your body change.  Sickness comes and goes.  Motivation waxes and wanes.  But through all the flux of life, through all the fickle reactions of our emotions, through all the palpitations of our unsure heart, and through the maelstrom of our thoughts and ideas, we consciously choose to maintain a constant and regular practice.  By this commitment we establish a priority in life above all the changes:  We choose to exalt the Infinite Universal Self and to develop our human, finite self as a channel to express our subtle and unlimited nature.

The yogic scriptures require at least 2 ½ hours of sadhana before the rising of the sun.  In this way, you dedicate at least one-tenth of each day to refining your consciousness, maintain your vitality and connecting to the sacred dimension of yourself and God.  In these early ambrosial hours, the prana, the basic life force of consciousness, concentrates and physical cleansing is more easily accomplished than in the later hours of the day.  It is a tranquil time when few people are awake and busy, so the clutter and bustle of daily activities will not distract or interfere with your practice and clarity.

Though many things may challenge the constancy or depth of your early morning sadhana, as you conquer each one, you will build your will power, your confidence, and the ability to creatively and consciously beam your mind.  This constant practice of stillness, awareness and readiness infuses your life with sensitivity to the natural rhythms of your body and to the fertile dance of each moment.  This is no small accomplishment.  If at the same time each day, you attune all your mental and physical rhythms to each other, then no part of yourself will be out of step with any other part of yourself.  The entire day flows better.  Doing a sadhana at the same time each day helps you master it quickly and because your body and mind use that regularity to anchor your consciousness.  Regular practice is part of the art of learning the enterprise of self-mastery.  Learning theory has shown that if you practice a particular task at the same time each day, you will learn it more efficiently.  Therefore, if you practice meditation at the same time every day, it becomes easier and easier.

In meditation, you clean the subconscious mind of its fears and anxieties and in turn release reservoirs of consciousness and energy—you renew yourself.  You cultivate new habits: allowing your awareness to guide you; no longer chasing the thoughts and reactions of your mind; practicing neutrality and flexibility.  As each fear comes up, look at it with neutrality and your instinctual and learned fears will release their power over you.  You become flexible; you break the rigid automatic behaviors induced by anxiety, fear and depression.  Most of our fears were learned at a particular time of day and anchored to specific circumstances or thoughts.  These fears tend to occur most intensely when triggered by similar circumstances, time periods or thought patterns that initiated them in the first place.  By meditating during the early morning sadhana, we slowly process these anxieties consciously, while under our control rather than becoming subject to their reactions as they arise on their own in our daily life.

Normally you react to anxieties on their time and on their conditions.  Your subconscious reactions and emotions crowd out your awareness and the reality of the moment.  In meditation, these old fears come to you on your time and under your conditions.  Because your practice is at the same time each day, it becomes increasingly easier to process and redirect the fears as you establish and dwell in the clarity of your own consciousness.  Eventually the mind is cleared—the clouds of fear, anger, depression and fantasy part and the light and power of creative consciousness begins to reveal itself.