Explaining, "the answers your looking for are already inside you."
WTF is Svadhyaya?
Svadhyaya is one of the yoga Niyamas, or recommended habits, that means self-study, or self-observation.
As humans, most of us are very driven to know who we are and why we are here.
Self study is the unraveling of our own layers in order to try and understand ourselves. It’s the process of examining our beliefs, our choices, our imperfections and our behaviors, to discover who we really are, underneath it all.
Most of us are drawn to this kind of work because we want to understand our purpose in life and to figure out if we are living our life in alignment with that purpose. One thing seems to be true for all of as yogis, we either arrived at yoga led by this desire, or yoga helped us to unlock it...
This blog has been a form of self study for myself, and my biggest motivation is the hope that it can inspire you in your own process.
Self Study on the Yoga Mat
The first thing we learn when starting a yoga practice, is to draw awareness to your body and breath as you practice. What is the big deal about the breath? I’ll tell you.
The breath lets us know what's going on inside. It gives us information about how we are doing. For example: A short, shallow breath held in the upper chest is a sign that we’re stressed, anxious, or pushing ourselves too far physically. If you notice your breath resembles this, it is a cue to breathe more fully, inhaling into the belly, and lengthening the exhalation. It's also a reminder to dial it back, and be gentle with yourself.
Another core concept you’ll hear recited in yoga classes is to “listen to your body” Through continuous practice, we get more accustomed to tuning in with sensations and subtle energy in our bodies and we use this information to consider what kind of practice we need, and honor our needs.
The way we practice on the mat, is a reflection of how we live our life off the mat. Do you take a child's pose when you need a break or do you push yourself too far and risk injuring yourself? Do you rush to keep in time with the person on the mat next to you? What does your internal dialogue sound like when you wobble and fall out of your balancing posture?
The continuous practice of Self Study, will help you to notice behavioral patterns and to understand what is working for you, in specific situations, and what is not.
Some days you need that heating, fiery practice to melt the agitation or burn the demons away as I like to call it. Those days call for power yoga and sweat. Other days you need a cooling, calming, restorative practice that is all about comfort, moving slowly and being kind to your body. Self study helps you to recognize what you need.
Svadhyaya and Your Mental Health.
One of the facets of anxiety, the belief that something is wrong with you, stems from misunderstanding who you are. One way to counter this is by investing time into learning about ourselves. Taking time to do this will help us better understand why we do the things we do and why we are the person we are. Having this information can help us handle our life, our relationships, our communication, and our needs.
The more we understand our strengths and weaknesses the more we can utilize our strengths and overcome our weaknesses. We can use Svadhyaya as a tool to change our self defeating behaviors, and to empower ourselves in choosing a plan of action.
Since anxiety is something we are affected by, but all experience uniquely, it's important to examine closely, how it manifests for you in your life. What seems to escalates it and what calms it down? How long does it last, what is the level of intensity, what are our triggers and our soothers, etc.
Most of our anxiety stems from these stories we created in our minds about who we are. These stories become our self identity and the filter we see life out of. They’re built around our core beliefs, which begin taking shape in childhood, based on our comparisons to others, our experiences, trauma, and relationships with others.
Simply becoming aware of these old stories, shifts the power they hold over you. Until you become aware that these stories are exactly that- STORIES, you continue living them out.
Without getting real scientific with you, let me just say, there is research that shows that by learning to focus our mental lens on our internal world, through mindfulness, yoga and all of its branches, we can literally re-route neural pathways and stimulate growth in the areas of the brain that are crucial to mental health. This book has helped me greatly in understanding some of this.
When we take the mystery out of our conditions, it looses it's power. Through this awareness, we come to understand that we are separate from our anxiety, it is not who we are, it is just something that we experience.
One Last Message...
Self study is like exercising, it's not a once and done thing, it's something that must be sustained over time, the more continuously your practice, the closer you get to yourself.