Svadhyaya – Self-Study
The Sanskrit word Svadhyaya translates as “one being absorbed within the study or the text”. I understand this to mean that after many years of studying the ancient yogic texts, these texts are experienced within the body rather than on an intellectual level. The yogi is exploring these learnings through yogic practices such as meditation, pranayama (breathing exercises), and of course asanas (physical postures).
Over time the wisdom of the texts becomes ingrained into the body, inseparable, the yogi becomes the teachings. This constant awareness encourages the yogi to keep studying and living the teachings in their life. The wisdom continues to be reabsorbed into the body. This in turn changes how one holds themselves, carries their body, reacts, responds and copes with life’s ups and down.
Of course most of us do not have the option to dedicate our lives solely to the pursuit of exploring knowledge and wisdom on an individual internally-lived level.
On a lighter translation, we take Svadhyaya to mean “self-study”.
With this understanding we can learn to internalise what we discover in our yoga practice, learn to look within, recognise patterns and responses, and observe the positive changes that occur when we commit to a regular yoga practice.
While we cannot control or influence everything, we can always control how to feel and respond. No one else is responsible for our reactions and feelings. We are in control, in the driver’s seat, and the more we understand ourselves the greater flexibility we have in our mind to respond differently.
Svadhyaya invites us to explore our behaviours, habits, reactions, emotions and beliefs, as we begin to pay attention to what is actually going on in our being. Svadhyaya promotes compassionate self-inquiry with kindness and acceptance. Yoga allows you to cultivate this healthy relationship with yourself, and the more you devote yourself to the practice, the stronger this sense of deep well-being is as it moves through the layers of your being.
Self-study is also a necessary part of finding your Dharma, your purpose. If you have never felt connected to the wisdom deep within your cells, your being, then it becomes difficult to find your true path in life. That is a sad thought indeed, for we are all born to fulfil a specific purpose, and therefor you have a duty not only to yourself but to humanity to align with your Dharma.
The practices of yoga help to deepen your ability to look within, become aware of what you find, creating meaningful connections between the subtle layers of your being. This in turn is expressed through increased well-being and a purposeful life.
Next time you practice yoga
Try to study yourself next time you practice yoga.
Rather than wishing it was time for savasana relaxation, disliking a particular asana and wishing it would end, or thinking about what you are going to be doing after class, why not close your eyes and really feel into the shape your body is in. Notice the thoughts or emotions lingering beneath the surface, or indeed popping up to say hello. Then make the slightest adjustment to your posture and again explore how that feels physically and emotionally.
Focusing on the breath is the perfect way to bring the mind into the present moment to observe your self in a non-judgmental way. Remember, there is no “right or wrong” in yoga. As long as you are safe, your body is expressing itself in your unique way.
You deserve to live your best life, find your purpose, and share it with the world. Allow the tools of yoga to take you on a journey of self-awareness. If you feel ready to study yourself, but are experiencing fear or hesitation, or feel unsafe, please talk to your yoga or meditation teacher and they can support you to find the postures or meditations that allow you to begin to study yourself from a place of ease and comfort.