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My First 40 Day Sadhana—Or How I Conquered the Dragon (Lady)

By Shabad Kaur

“When you experience your origin as a reality, you are happy. Be constant under all circumstances and relate to one thing - you are a part of Infinity and always lean on that power - then you'll never be unhappy.”
-Yogi Bhajan

I had the chance to test-drive my first 40-day Kundalini Yoga practice in my 20’s. At that time, I was free-lancing as a fledgling graphic designer at different firms as I transitioned careers to pursue my graduate degree in counseling.

At one particular company, the design director made a memorable impression on us, her staff; she was a cool cucumber with a huge projection of control. Looking back on it now, I realize that she couldn’t have been more than 5 years older than most of us in the design department.

She demanded perfection from us, and had this way of using deeply direct eye contact and a soft but unwavering way of critiquing our work and verbally clipping out her daily missives. It all added up to a universally intimidating experience. The daily planning meetings were bad enough, but if you were summoned to her office individually for some reason, that was the worst. My legs would actually shake a bit, and as I passed their work-stations on the way to her office, my co-workers gave me the side-eye, like, “Yikes, and good luck!” We referred to her as the Dragon Lady.

At this same time, I was beginning my journey on the Kundalini Yoga path. I described this work situation to my yoga teacher, and she recommended that I begin a 40-day practice of Beginner’s Cleansing Set (found in Sadhana Guidelines). This yoga set features a series of leg lifts, stretch pose and breath of fire, and strongly activates the strength of the third chakra. My teacher explained that this 40-day practice would help me break my negative habit of fear and introduce a positive habit of courage.

Through the 40 days, I embodied a strength that was rooted in my navel chakra. My confidence grew, and I began to become much less attached to my fear and trepidation. I related to the director in a much more neutral way, viewing her in a different light, and no longer feared her. My co-workers were astonished by my changes, and one even asked me to show her some yoga too!

So I fell deeply in love with 40-day practices and came to understand them as a deeply transformative ‘time capsule’ of change. I have practiced numerous Kundalini Yoga sets and meditations since, and I’ve recommended them to many students over the years. They create effective change like water on stone, smoothing the rough spots, drop by drop. There are many references to 40-day practices throughout world cultures and walks of faith. An especially powerful example from the Torah, is that the number 40 represents transition or change—the concept of renewal, a new beginning. It has the power to lift a spiritual state.

It takes a great deal of patience with oneself and a willingness to move past resistances including boredom and distraction to ‘dig deep’ and complete a 40-day practice without breaking a day. But the discipline reveals manifold blessings.

Forty Early Mornings Alone

A new moon teaches gradualness

and deliberation, and how one gives birth

to oneself slowly. Patience with small details

makes perfect a large work, like the universe.

What nine months of attention does for an embryo

forty early mornings alone will do

for your gradually growing wholeness.

-Rumi, The Illuminated Rumi

Shabad Kaur Khalsa, LCPC, LMFT, E-RYT 500, KRI Level 1 Lead Teacher Trainer. She is co-founder and director of Spirit Rising Yoga Center and Spirit Rising Foundation in Chicago, IL. She has taught Kundalini Yoga for 30 years, and as a psychotherapist, she integrates the teachings into treatment for adults and couples. She is honored to have served Yogi Bhajan directly and has transcribed, edited, and illustrated several books including his women’s camp lectures, Master’s Touch and Flow of Eternal Power.

The health and empowerment of women through the teachings of Kundalini Yoga is a cause that is near and dear to her heart and she also specializes in Humanology, marriage, conscious birth, self-care, health and wellness. Shabad Kaur leads the Midwest Women’s Yoga Retreat in Wisconsin from October 5-8, 2017. (www.spiritrisingyoga.org)

Dragon Art: "The Beast" by Todd Rothley, 2015