Last week I was really into discussing Svadhyaya in my classes, which is one of the Niyamas, or observances and represent the second of the eight limbs of yoga. Svadhyaya is translated as self-study. In class I also referenced text from the Bhagavad Gita, which describes yoga as follows:
"Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self."
This part of the Gita illustrates that the practice of Svadhyaya is integral to the practice of yoga. Yes, asana, the physical practice, also one of the eight limbs, allows us to burn through the physical layers, the dust, the heaviness, and it also allows us to see ourselves in different situations. For example, how we feel when we are doing a pose that we love versus, how we feel when we are doing a pose that we hate, and yes, there are definitely poses that we all shy away from. In this way, asana can be the gateway into the stepping into the role of the "seeyer", the observer of the self:
"The witness is our ability to watch ourselves act and respond. It is this ability to watch that begins to bring healing into our lives." Deborah Adele
What happens when we begin to observe our behaviour, our habits, our tendencies daily? Not in a judgemental way, but rather in a kind and compassionate way? In my experience, there is always more to uncover, more to see, more to learn about our true nature, or truest big "S" self. It creates a pathway to clear speaking, clear seeing, and non-judgement of the Self or others. We truly begin to move from a place of inner strength, wisdom and integration.
Svadhyaya is a daily practice. practice for me, it is the yoga of living of relationship with the self and with other. The lessons related to self-study continual catch me off guard. Just when I think I see myself clearly, or I have gained control of one of my patterns, or one of my behaviours, it sneaks back in to get me. Like deep ruts along the side of the road, so easy to fall back into. I find if I am able to break down the situation, I can understand it and my reaction in the situation more clearly. If I soften, if I can breathe, and if I come from a place of love for myself, I can admit and see what is happening. For me this is the true practice, yes, the physical, but so much more the practice for me is the unfolding of the Self. This is the greatest gift this practice of yoga gives us. It is called a practice because we return to it daily, with fresh eyes and an open heart.