Discussing the concept “Svadhyaya,” or Self-Study.
Connection to others
So much of what we do in life encourages us to look outward. We’re taught to observe our external environment, connect with colleagues and friends, and consume (whether it’s food, information, or products). When we come onto our mat, we give ourselves the opportunity to observe our internal environment. It’s an invitation to check in with ourselves and notice. Just notice. No judgment. No attachment. I want us to consider our practice without searching for mastery, but searching for ourselves.
Connection to self
Svadhyaya is sanskrit for “self-study.” Taking this concept into our practice/life is the key to feeling home within yourself, and therefore anywhere you go. Svadhayaya invites us to experience ourselves, but not as a separate entity from the collective consciousness. Just as a wave is made of the substance from which is ascends, as are we. Individual waves are each part of the collective ocean, and therefore neither add to nor reduce the massiveness that is the ocean. Similarly, the niyama svadhyaya teaches us that just like waves in the ocean, our individual human awareness only exists within and part of the boundless collective consciousness.
As we enter yoga studios, we don’t often ask one another for advice on how to practice this niyama, or any. We might share advice on accessing coveted yoga poses, or asanas, but the physical practice is only the gateway to the immeasurable vastness of yoga practice. The deeper we take our practice, the deeper we dive into ourselves. Beyond our thoughts, preferences, and feelings, we find the essence of our being. Our ego is the source of many of our thoughts and desires; however, the ego is not us. When we shed those layers of blockage, and return and return again to our self-study practice, we gain more awareness of Self. We notice the things we do that cause us harm and we notice the things we do that serve us. These recognitions bring us toward uniting with the true Self.
Our doubts, fears, judgments, and criticisms are not actually who we are. Moreover, what we are doing and what we think we are doing are not always the same thing. Take warrior 2 or virabhadrasana 2 for example. Sometimes we think we are in perfect alignment, and then we take a look at our back arm and notice it’s doing something funky. Continuing to learn about ourselves through yoga unlocks the door to consciousness. It’s up to us to walk through it; and then to find and open every other door in the space of consciousness.