Navratri, a 9-day festival that’s known for its vibrant, auspicious days, is also one of the best times to start your yoga practice or deepen if you are already practice. Apart from the physical practice of asanas, observing silence, Mantra chants, fasting and meditation are popular yogic practices that many take up during this period. Turning inward during this time is relatively easy and profoundly beneficial.
Traditionally, this time is called Sharad Navratri. According to Swami Niranjananda Saraswati, of Bihar schoolof Yoga,
Navratri or the nine days of sadhana, is traditionally celebrated as a festival. During this period, according to the mythology, Shakti (Durga) was victorious over the negative forces or demons. It is the victory of Shakti which is remembered during these nine days.
Navaratri falls twice during the year, once in the month of April and once in the month of September. For spiritual aspirants, Navaratri has a special meaning because, due to the lining up of the faith and devotion of the people in the nation, an environment is created in such a way that any form of spiritual sadhana or pooja becomes conducive to spiritual development. The story behind Navratri is also symbolic.
In our own lives we can feel that the negative qualities or tendencies overpower the innate goodness within us. The goodness then manifests, tainted by the color which it has imbibed from the negative qualities. When goodness manifests in this way, it becomes a selfish quality. One example is that, although people talk of compassion and love, this love is not a universal feeling for everybody. The feeling of love and compassion is coloured by motivations which are selfish, personal and individualistic.
So, good qualities are always colored by the gunas. The negative traits seem to have more power in external life, because the manifest world is a process of outgoing experience. Communication is outward. The entire spectrum of life is geared for interaction with the external world of name, form, idea and object, within the confines of time and space. The negative or limiting tendencies hamper our growth and the expression of our positive nature in the manifest world.
For nine days, sadhakas create a change in their lives through a concerted effort to follow a specific spiritual discipline. The sadhaka receives a set of instructions at the beginning on how to practice, how to observe himself, what disciplines to maintain. This is known as Navratri Anushthana.
Common Practices During Navratri
This is known as a time to restart a sadhana (practice) or go deeper into a sadhana (after the hot summers and monsoon rains). One can use this auspicious time to get a new healthy habit going as well. Navratri offers us a chance to go back to our source to reset and rejuvenate the physical body as well as the mind.
Here are a few ways you can benefit from yoga practice during this time:
Meditation and Chanting
Meditation, a practice known to bring relaxation and rejuvenation to the mind and the body, allows one to withdraw and experience silence through meditation. Meditating and chanting during Navratri helps you align your mind and body with nature. Nature plays an important role to keep us in balance. It is considered as an abundant source of energy and meditating amidst nature brings in that instant connection to go deep within. Even modern science has thrown light on this. During the summer solstice and the winter solstice, the sun goes to extremes. During Navratri, the sun is right in the middle, bringing the balance between the daytime and night time, thus making it the perfect timing for meditation and chanting.
Cleansing and Detox
By fasting during this auspicious time one can greatly benefit. While your determination and strength will be tested, physically your body will go through intense cleansing. The body is deeply connected with the mind and emotions. When the body is cleansed and detoxified, the mind is also purified. It becomes calm, focused and relaxed. In one way, this is the start of Fall. It makes us all slow down after the hectic summer days. Fasting during this time infuses the body with energy by removing toxins, which helps build up immunity for the coming winter as well. Spiritually, fasting or replacing heavy food with sattvic (wholesome) foods like fresh fruits and vegetables brings energy and balance to the system. Yes, initially the mind will feel restless and you might crave certain foods. But you can overcome this restlessness with the help of meditation, yoga stretches, pranayama and chanting. After some time, your nervous system will also get balanced and relaxed.
Breathing exercises will give you the strength and focus to stay committed to your practice. It will help you go deeper into a meditative state as well as contribute towards cleansing and detoxifying your system. Breathwork will also induce a deeply calming and relaxing effect on your mind and body.
Recommitting to a practice or taking the time to form new habits are more easily achieved during this time. When you are more balanced and calm, you have better clarity of thought and focus, helping you stick to a commitment or routine. Starting with meditation itself gives you that opportunity to make a fresh start. Make use of this auspicious time to refresh and restart. It’s also the perfect time to realign with the change of season and to check-in with your goals for the year.