Most of us live our lives out of sync with ourselves, our inner wisdom, and we lose our intuitive abilities in the process.
Our days are spent in gaining knowledge about the outside world, making money, attending meetings, going out, and indulging in pleasing the senses. If I were to ask you who you are apart from the labels and degrees attached to your name, what would you say? We are concerned about what others will think of us, instead of focusing on your own opinion. Do you spend enough time with yourself in solitude or even in silence?
While reading some text on a course I am doing, something rang a bell. “Svadhyaya” a Sanskrit word where ‘sva’ means self study, an introspection, contemplation, reflection of oneself, and Adhyaya, means lesson, lecture, or reading, and it connotes the practice of studying the Self.
Patanjali’s Yogasutra, II.44 says,
स्वाध्यायादिष्टदेवतासंप्रयोगः॥ Meaning study thyself and discover the divine.
In our daily lives, we function from our Ego, drifting away from our true beliefs or intuition. The ‘I’ or ego is mostly trying to survive, making demands, judging, living in a fear-based mindset and we lose ourselves in this web.
From this level of consciousness, it is difficult to dive deeper into our own self and to see ourselves as we really are. When we spend time with ourselves, we begin to elevate our consciousness as we start recognising our habits and thought patterns, and realize how much of what we do and think is far from who we really are.
Svadhyaya as a Niyama
“The deeper I go into myself the more I realize that I am my own enemy.” ~ Floriano Martins
Svadhyaya is one of the five Niyamas (observances) of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and one of the key elements in Yoga. Traditionally, this Niyama involved reading/studying ancient scriptures and texts like the Bhagavad Gita or The Upanishads, and doing mantra meditation to bring the mind to a single-pointed concentration and focus.
Svadhyaya – Self study to understand the human mind?
“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” ~ Aristotle
When you dive deeper into your monkey mind, you will notice the fickle nature of the mind and realise the unnecessary baggage we carry with us all the time.
Sometimes you live life in auto mode, without really paying attention to how it is actually making you feel. When you practice Svadhyaya, you learn to notice your feelings, and reflect upon your behaviour, actions, thought patterns and desires, that is the deepest form of self validation.
Self study to connect with yourself
“The unexamined life is not worth living.” ~ Socrates
Each one of us have certain qualities which might seem good to a normal rational mind, on further contemplation and practicing svadhyaya you suddenly realise these qualities aren’t good.
These qualities are making you a lot of money, but those qualities might not be conducive to gain a higher state of awareness.
Self-study or Svadhyays helps you to pinpoint that quality, analyze yourself if you will. See where you’re going wrong. You will quickly realise the things you need to change, what you need to adjust, what you need to develop or acquire. It helps to overcome one’s past mistakes and live without any guilt.
Just like in The Velveteen Rabbit, a stuffed rabbit can only become real when its owner truly loves it. As the Skin Horse tells the Velveteen Rabbit, “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily… Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
Eventually as a result of unconditional love showered by his owner, the rabbit becomes real to everyone and lives and hops around with all the other rabbits in the forest. It discovers its true nature and celebrates it!
How to practice Svadhyaya in daily life?
Reading sacred texts
Start your day by reading any sacred text you wish, it could be absolutely whatever your heart desires or what resonates very deeply with you. Read those words with an open mind and be receptive to its learnings.
Reflect on those words during the day and perhaps write about whatever thoughts or feelings that come up for you. In this practice, the wisdom that lies within these texts help us to find ourselves, help us to get the answers we seek and also to understand ourselves a little better.
Always keep an open mind, question what you read too and initiate yourself in this process of self-discovery!
Practicing Svadhyaya on the mat
Yoga is a beautiful practice to study yourself, to know more about who you really are, and explore the depths of your being through movement.
The way you practice reveals a lot about yourself. While in an asana, there is a lot that goes on, it’s not just doing a headstand and feeling good about yourself, that is an ego-driven approach.
When your mind is filled with thoughts, your body will move very differently while practicing – it feels more rigid, stiffness and tightness.
When you are focused and aware, you notice where the unresolved emotions, stress, worries, tension is stored in your body. Mostly it gets stored in the upper back, neck, shoulders, jaws, and hips. With focused breath and asanas, you can slowly release and free your body from those blockages.