When I was 26 years old I did this course called ‘The Happiness Program.’ I know it sounds really naff when people say this, but it changed my life. It really did. When I registered for the course I didn’t realise just how much I needed it. I’d spent so many years of my life being really busy. I was constantly trying to fit in as much as I could. I was an addicted multi-tasker and a high achiever – basically your classic Type A personality. I guess I believed that the more I did the more fully I was living. At the end of the day what that mostly left me with was an over-riding feeling of worn-out-ness. I didn’t realise it at the time, but my system was really knackered.
On the course we learnt this breathing practice called the sudarshan kriya. It was powerful. I’d done many breathing techniques before and I’d been teaching yoga for a few years, but nothing I’d done came anywhere near this. Our teacher said that if we really wanted to experience the benefits of the sudarshan kriya we should practice it once a day for 30 minutes over a period of 6 months. I took it on. I was really keen to see how it would affect me. The benefits were huge. One of the benefits I noticed almost immediately was that I was able to get so much done in heaps less time, quite effortlessly. At that time I was working as a freelance journalist and needed to pump out a lot of articles, fast. I had to work long, hard hours to meet my deadlines, until I started doing sudarshan kriya every day. My mind was so fresh after kriya. I was able to punch them out in no time. The words just flowed through me.
During one of the days on the course I felt that a lot of anger was coming out of me. I got a boil on my top lip which was really sore. It felt like it was symbolic of the anger that was coming out – like a mini volcano erupting on my face. It was nasty. And then after the Happiness Program I found myself being really calm in stressful situations. I was really able to remain centred and to think clearly and act effectively, without trying to, where previously I’d usually have lost my temper or ended up being really angry for a long time. When stressful situations or people popped up around me it didn’t seem to touch me as much. The more regular my practice of the sudarshan kriya became the more I felt as though there was some sort of shield that was protecting me. I know that may sound a little strange but I don’t know how else to describe it.
Overall, the course had such a huge impact on me that years later I did my Teachers Training course at the Art of Living ashram in Bangalore, India, and became a volunteer teacher of it.
How To Get Your Kriya and Meditation Done When You Have A Newborn
For the last 13 years I’ve done the sudarshan kriya at home pretty much every day. When Joshi was born I missed a few days, but was back into it within 10 days or so. Kriya’s not something you can do while your baby’s awake and in need of your attention, so the way I’d fit it in initially was to do it during the day as soon as he fell asleep. It could be any time of day, because he didn’t yet have a specific sleeping pattern. Anyway, as soon as he’d fall asleep I’d drop whatever I was doing and go straight into three stage pranayama (one of the initial breathing practices you do to prepare for sudarshan kriya). Yes, of course there was always laundry to do, dishes to wash, rooms to tidy, etc (when isn’t there with a baby!), but I knew that if I was to get my kriya done I had to seize those small and unpredictable windows of opportunity. Everything else could be done while Joshi was awake; kriya couldn’t.
Of course there were times when my practice would get interrupted because Joshi would wake soon after he’d fallen asleep. Sometimes I had to come out of my meditation really quickly to tend to him. If you meditate regularly you know how jarring that can be. But I decided I wasn’t going to complain about it. I was just grateful to have got 10 or 20 minutes in, or whatever it was. Something’s better than nothing, right?
How To Get Your Kriya and Meditation Done When You Have A One Year Old
Now that Joshi’s almost a year old a lot has changed. When he wakes up in the morning (usually around 6.15am), instead of getting some extra sleep while Simon looks after Joshi, I get up, have a shower and spend the next hour doing my practice. I do 15-20 minutes of padmasadhana (a gorgeous sequence of yoga poses which is taught on the more advanced Art of Living courses), 30 minutes of sudarshan kriya and 10-20 minutes of sahaj samadhi meditation, (which I also learnt through the Art of Living Foundation). When I’m done, I look after Joshi while Simon does his. This is what works best for us now. It wouldn’t have worked when he was a newborn coz I was just too tired to get up at that time of the morning… and it may not always work either. We just have to work out what’s best on any given day.
I have to say, I often wonder how parents cope without something like sudarshan kriya in their day because this parenting journey is really demanding and you really need all the energy and patience you can get to deal with situations with your kids well. Since I’ve become a parent my level of appreciation for the benefits that sudarshan kriya bring me have increased so much. Not a day goes by where I don’t feel like I’m one of the luckiest people on the planet, for having come across the Happiness Program and what it’s brought to my life. I promise you, if I wasn’t doing kriya everyday things would look a lot different at home and Joshi and I certainly wouldn’t be smiling as much.
Tip of the day for parents-to-be: Learn the sudarshan kriya and meditation now, before you become parents.
Extra tip for mammas-to-be: Learn how to do sudarshan kriya before you become pregnant because you can’t learn it while your bub’s growing inside you. Also, once you have your baby it’s so much harder to make the time to do the course. Not that it’s impossible, just harder. The Happiness Program is a total of about 18 hours spread usually over 6 consecutive sessions, so it’s a big commitment. You also can’t miss any of the sessions, so you really need to be able to take it on fully. Having said that, once you’ve learnt the sudarshan kriya you have an amazing tool with which to take care of yourself. And I promise you, you’ll need that when you become a parent, especially if you want to share your best self with your family and not your worn out, irritable, sleep-deprived, grumpy self.
PS. The Art of Living Courses, including The Happiness Program, are taught by volunteers in 152 countries, so you can do them almost anywhere in the world. I will be teaching The Happiness Program in Sydney soon. To register for now my next Happiness Program, 5-10 April 2016, click here.
Oh, and when your kids are old enough they can do the Art Excel Course. They’ll love it. It’s heaps of fun.
Further reading about AOL:
Art of Living Foundation – http://www.artofliving.org
Mums and dads reading this … have you done The Happiness Program? How has it helped you?