In my last post, I explained how svadhyaya is the practice of self study and how that practice is helpful at examining our mental health and coming to understand ourselves and our relationship with the world.
In this post I wanted to share some tools of reflection and awareness to help you incorporate more svadyhaha or self study, in your life.
So without further ado, read on for seven different places to begin with your self study pursuits, in no particular order.
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7 Ways to Practice Svadhyaya
Why Seven? In numerology the number seven is a number of the mind and represents contemplation, curiosity and spirituality. Seems fitting, no?
Anyways, lets get to it.
1. Draw Attention Inward with Introspection
Turn off noise. Carve out quiet time to be with yourself in silence. Quieting outside distractions, helps us to better tune into our intuition. That quiet voice inside of us is often drown out by the loudness of our monkey mind and all our random thoughts. However, if your prone to depression it’s Important to avoid excessive introspection. Remember: balance. Too much introspection can quickly turn into circular thinking ruts, and over-analyzing every perceived flaw. If this is something you are prone to, sometimes healthy distractions and keep busy productively can be more beneficial. I talk about turning inward for peace from mental illness in this post.
Keeping a journal is like having a good conversation with yourself. This is a way for you to thought dump whatever it is that your mind is swarming with. It's both a form of release and a way to understand what is going on in your mind. Writing can help you to understand what are your main priorities in life, which can help you to develop your personal mission. You can also use this form of self-help to discover what kind of person you desire to show up as. Check out Journaling as a Mental Health Tool, and 10 Journal Prompts for Processing Emotions.
3. Be a Witness
In the beginning of the book The Four Agreements, the author explains the concept of “the smoky mirror”. What he share is that basically, everyone is a mirror that reflects you back to yourself when you judge someone else. We should all know this, by seeing ourselves in the reflections of each other, but there is a smoke in front of the mirror that stops us from seeing that. The smoke is a metaphor for living without awareness, blinded from the truth around us. One way we can begin to witness, is by noticing what we judge about others, and inquiring where that shows up inside of us or in our own lives. Often it is reflecting a wound within ourselves that needs healing. Becoming a witness helps to dismantle the false stories of the ego.
Still your mind and heighten your intuition through meditation. When you have a nagging question or a lingering confusion about an aspect of your life, meditation is like a form of prayer, that brings you in touch with your inner knowing. After meditating, our mental chatter is quieter which allows the voice of our intuition to be heard. I find guided meditations to be best for those new to it, or anyone with racing thoughts. Below are two short guided meditations you can try.
5. Practice Pratipaksa
When we begin witnessing our thoughts, we pick up on re-occurring thought patterns, how often they are happening, how they are affecting our mood and how they are affecting the way we show up for ourselves. This is really important information that we can use to change our ways for the better. Pratipaksa is a method for mentally replacing a disturbing or negative thought opposite thought or that which we wish to cultivate. For example replacing fearful thoughts with courage or angry thoughts with compassion and patience, and practicing over and over until it becomes a new habit. Learning to do this takes a lot of practice, but will eventually wear new routes for your thoughts, to reverse negative thinking. Read more about this concept in this post
6. Recite Mantra
One way to focus your attention during meditation or yoga practice is by using a soothing or comforting word or phrase you repeat to yourself either aloud or internally. Mantra has traditionally been used as a way for a person to connect with their higher power, and their true nature. Sanskrit mantras are chosen for their unique sound vibrations, which are tied to specific intentions. More about mantras, and a meditation tool to use it with, in this post.
By practicing longer holds in our practice on the mat, we can discover and explore energy blocks or samskaras which are our re-occurring thoughts patterns and habits. By noticing what pose come easy to us and which poses we avoid, we learn where we need to focus our work. (Usually the poses we avoid are the ones we need the most.) Our behavior on the mat is a reflection of our lives off the mat, so paying attention to the way you practice can tell you a lot about yourself. And of course, by observing your breath and the sensations in your body, you strengthen your ability to focus your attention and build self awareness. This is what makes yoga a conscious and mindful practice as opposed to simply exercising. Practicing these positive habits often on the mat, will eventually follow you off the mat, bringing more self-awareness into all your other daily activities.
Take 15 minutes to try this de-stressing, low to the ground, gentle yoga flow posted below. Great for when you are under stress or feeling anxious. Notice what comes up, or clears away for you.
Traditionally, the two ways to practice svadhyaya...
...is through reading sacred texts such as The Bhagavad Gita, and The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Reading these texts are still a must for building a foundational and historical understanding, if you are trying to be serious about your yoga education.
Check out this post, for some must read book recommendations, that will inspire you in your pursuit of self acceptance, and svadhyaya.
I hope you enjoyed this post. Please like, share and comment below or feel free to reach out to me if you have any feedback or questions!
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