arriving at our answers
Many of us arrive on our yoga mats with many questions: Who am I? What do I really want? What is my purpose in life? Why do I feel so disconnected? Where is my home? How can I best serve others? And, it is through the process of svadhyaya ('self-study' in yoga practice) that we arrive at our answers and reconnect with who we are beneath all of the layers of past conditioning and experience.
Svadhyaya is the practice of self-awareness. It involves cultivating a quality of being that is mindful, curious, interested, reflective, intrigued, observant, inquisitive, adventurous, and present.
The opposite of svadhyaya is whenever we find ourselves attached to an idea about a situation or ourselves. Self-study enables us to connect with reality over illusion. It’s a process - one that requires letting go of any preconceived ideas and assumptions that we have made over the course of our lives so that we are open to understanding, experiencing, and learning from the present moment.
why practice svadhyaya?
In some articles, (such as this one) yogis have been attacked for being self-interested, selfish, and narcissistic; I believe that these opinions comes from a place of misunderstanding and disconnection.
Meaningful connection requires understanding. How can we expect to understand others, or for others to understand us, if we do not know or understand ourselves? How can we expect to feel connected to and fulfilled by the work that we do, if we do not know what it is that we enjoy doing? Self-study brings us closer to who we are and our truth. Meaningful connection of this kind can only ever be a good thing for our own personal health and wellbeing, but also for those who we serve through our work and those we forge relationships with in every area of our lives.
The process of self-study involves cultivating a proactive, empowered, curious, and contemplative mindset. How could this possibly be a bad thing in a world crying out for humans to live more conscious, connected lives? Personal growth through self-study can, through attention, inquiry, empathy, and resonance, reconnect the separation between us as individuals, and a species, with the rest of the world.
There are examples and opportunities for personal growth everywhere in our everyday lives. In fact, everything is a means for self-study. There are lessons to be learnt in all areas of our lives through the examination of our attitudes, reactions, beliefs, aversions, desires and motivations.
Here are some of ways that you can practice self-study through yoga on the mat...
Yoga asana engages our bodies and arouses reactions from within the body and mind that can, if observed, be incredibly insightful both on and off the mat. Is there a yoga pose that you avoid or try to rush during your practice? Why is this?
Mindfulness meditation is the practice of being present in the moment. It increases our awareness and our ability to pay attention. It goes without saying that cultivating attentiveness is necessary in order to reconnect and learn from our thoughts and emotions as they arise.
Pranayama (breath work) purifies and cleanses our minds and bodies so that we can experience more clarity during our journey into the self.
All of these practices facilitate connection between the mind and body with our Soul – the energy source that resides at the core of who you are. They bring us closer to our truth and help to break through illusion.
Ultimately, to practice svadhyaya is to step inward – to go beneath appearance and illusion whilst both simultaneously learning and ‘unlearning’. One of the most insightful questions we can ask as we delve deeper and closer to our truth is: Why am I holding on to all of these layers that no longer fit me? If you then have the courage to shed them – these layers of protection, conditioning, fear, greed, ignorance and illusion – you will come to experience and enjoy connection in many areas of your life.
Is self-study part of your yoga practice? Did you enjoy this article?
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