Aquarian Sadhana in Kundalini Yoga
You’ll hear this phrase (Aquarian Sadhana) used by Kundalini yogis often. It’s a core part of the practice of Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan. You might take a class at a Kundalini Yoga studio and they invite you to attend sadhana, and you do a double take at the schedule. “It starts when?” you blurt out in shock. If you walk away then, you’ll be missing out on one of the most extraordinary aspects of the Kundalini Yoga tradition. But it’s a good idea to know more about what to expect before you attend.
What is Sadhana?
First of all, let’s talk about sadhana itself. Sadhana means daily spiritual practice. Any form of meditation, yoga, or spiritual activity can be a form of sadhana. In Sanskrit, sadhana literally means accomplishing something. You set a task as a goal and you accomplish it, in the service of worship of the divine or elevation of your spirit. Morning sadhana isn’t too tricky to decipher. It’s a spiritual practice that you do first thing in the morning.
For Kundalini yogis, morning sadhana forms the backbone of the entire practice and helps to raise the Kundalini energy and bring self-awareness and personal victory. You’ll hear of people doing all kinds of different meditations or kriyas, the name for a Kundalini yoga set, as a part of their morning sadhana practice. The mother of all morning sadhana practices is called the Aquarian Sadhana, which is practiced all over the world by Kundalini yogis.
What is the Aquarian Sadhana exactly?
It is a series of spiritual practices done during the amrit vela, the 2 1/2 hours before the rise of the sun, given by Yogi Bhajan, the Master of Kundalini Yoga. It operates under the principle of karma. Whatever you give comes back tenfold, so with 2 1/2 hours given to the Divine, then your entire day is covered with blessings. It is called the “Aquarian” sadhana because it was meant to carry humanity through the current age we find ourselves in, the Aquarian Age, astrologically speaking. It is divided into four parts: preparation for sadhana, recitation of Sikh prayers, Kundalini Yoga kriya, and chanting the Aquarian mantras. The Aquarian Sadhana can be done individually, but it is often practiced in a group for additional energetic benefits.
It’s not uncommon to feel overwhelmed by the scope of the practice just reading about it. It does require discipline to accomplish, and the practice itself develops the grit to continue. But there’s a tremendous sweetness in the practice that shouldn’t be overlooked. Keep an open mind and an open heart to the practice, as it is a profoundly transformational tool. (And it offers a deep practice of yoga for the more committed practitioner.)
Preparation for Aquarian Sadhana
The preparation for sadhana begins when you wake up. You take a cold shower, which brings health and radiance to your physical body. The benefits are numerous and include increased circulation and lower depression levels. A cold shower also has the benefit of bringing you to an alert state, so it is easier for you to stay awake during your long yoga and meditation practice. After showering, yogis will typically dress in white cotton clothing and wrap their head in a turban, said to increase the size and strength of your aura and draw the Kundalini energy up the spine, and thus boosting the benefits of your practice.
If you go to group sadhana, you will see a leader. Sadhana isn’t considered a class, so there is much less discussion, exposition or instruction during sadhana than during a regular class. This can sometimes be confusing for a newbie, but it is because it is considered a sacred space and the energy during this hour of the morning is very delicate, so there is little speaking beyond guiding the process gently.
To begin an Aquarian Sadhana, one starts by reciting a Sikh prayer called Japji, which a spiritual discourse of the nature of the Divine. This typically begins at 3:45am. You’ll often see Kundalini yogis covering their heads even if they aren’t wearing a turban (a sign of respect to the words in the Sikh tradition) and covering their spines with shawls (a way of using warmth to insulate the spine and to begin to raise the Kundalini energy.) This practice usually takes a half an hour to recite. It was written by Guru Nanak, the first Guru of the Sikhs. Japji is a poem that carries the frequency of enlightenment.
Kundalini Yoga Kriya
Following the completion of Japji, comes a Kundalini Yoga kriya. A kriya is a series of exercised done in particular lengths and sequence for a measureable effect. Kriyas are never changed or altered by a teacher, with the exception of reducing times to make them more achievable for students of various levels. The sadhana leader will select a kriya for everyone to do together, or if you are doing sadhana on your own, you can select your own kriya. Kriya help us to get our circulation going, remove tension, release emotional blocks, stimulate our organs, our glandular and nervous systems, and prepare us to sit for meditation.
In a full Aquarian sadhana, the leader will tune the participants in with the mantra “Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo” chanted three times. After that, everyone will begin the yoga itself. Typically, sadhana kriyas are roughly 30 minutes long. They can include asana, pranayama, and other dynamic movements. There is a brief relaxation in savasana, usually about five minutes.
Once the yoga set has concluded, the Aquarian Sadhana continues with a series of mantras known collectively as the Aquarian mantras. Each one is a powerful mantra on its own, and collectively they open up the chakras, preparing you for your day. Mantra is a powerful and ancient form of meditation that helps to still the mind by using a word focus. The Aquarian mantras are chanted for specific lengths of time during sadhana.
The Aquarian Mantras
The Morning Call
Also called the “Long Ek Ong Kaar”, this mantra raises the Kundalini. Chanted for 7 minutes.
Ek Ong Kaar Sat Naam Siri Waheguru
This mantra opens our intuition. Chanted for 7 minutes.
Waa yantee kar yantee, jag dut patee, aadak it waha, brahmaday trayshaa guroo, it wahay guroo
The Mul Mantra roots you to your spirit foundation while it propels you forward to your destiny. Chanted for 7 minutes.
Ek ong kaar, sat naam, karataa purakh, nirbho, nirvair
Akaal mooraat, ajoonee, saibhang, gur prasaad. Jap!
Aad such, jugaad such, Hai bhee such, Naanak hosee bhee such.
Sat Siri Siri Akal
This mantra declares that we are timeless, deathless beings. It helps us overcome greed and pettiness and develop our caliber. Chanted for 7 minutes.
Sat siree siree akaal, siree akaal mahaa akaal, Mahaa akaal, sat naam, akaal moorat, wahay guroo
Rakhe Rakhan Har
This is a mantra for protection from all negativity. Chanted for 7 minutes.
Rakhay rakhanhaar aap ubaariun
Gur kee pairee paa-eh kaaj savaariun
Hoaa aap dayaal manho na visaariun
Saadh janaa kai sung bhavjal taariun
Saakat nindak dusht khin maa-eh bidaariun
Tis saahib kee tayk naanak manai maa-eh
Jis simrat sukh ho-eh saglay dookh jaa-eh
This is a mantra (Waheguru Wahejio) of ecstasy. Chanted for 22 minutes in a specific asana, known as Vir Asan.
Wha-hay guroo wha-hay guroo
wha-hay guroo wha-hay jeeo
Guru Ram Das
This mantra (Guru Ram Das) praises Guru Ram Das and fills us with healing and humility. Chanted for 5 minutes.
Guru Guru Wahe Guru, Guru Ram Das Guru
Long Time Sun
You will often hear people sing the “Long Time Sun” song at the end of this practice, to mark the end of morning sadhana.
This is the traditional end to a Kundalini yoga class or gathering.
If you attend an Aquarian Sadhana at a Kundalini Yoga studio, ashram or Sikh family home, you will sometimes have a Gurdwara service following the sadhana, which is a Sikh worship service in which a “hukam” or a guiding message is taken from the holy book, known as a the Siri Guru Granth Sahib. Gurdwara is not a part of the Aquarian Sadhana itself.
Diving into the Deep End of Practice with The Aquarian Sadhana
The Aquarian Sadhana is a dive into the deep end of yogic spiritual practice. It involves many different aspects of the tradition of Kundalini Yoga and contains some of its most profound effects. It can be somewhat intimidating to begin on your own. Find a yoga studio like Yoga West or Ra Ma Institute in Los Angeles that has a consistent offering of morning sadhana, and let someone step in and show you the ropes. If you don’t understand something…ask! You will be challenged, but also transformed.
Dr. Ramdesh Kaur is the author of “The Body Temple: Kundalini Yoga for Body Acceptance, Eating Disorders, and Radical Self-Love.” She has many guided meditation albums and over 300 podcast episodes to bring practitioners deeper into their practice and their personal power. She has a PhD in Spirituality with a concentration in yoga and eastern religions, and has spent years touring teaching Kundalini Yoga everywhere from the foothills of the Himalayas, to the bustling streets of London, to the suburbs of New Jersey.