Know Thy Self - Svadhyaya

Exploring and applying the often neglected paths of Yoga to your life.


Often when you think of yoga, the first thing that comes to mind is the asana practice. This was the entry point for me. Admittedly, in the beginning of my journey, yoga was exercise — an athletic undertaking.


Although asanas are an essential part of Patanjali’s Eight-Limbed path, it's only one component of yoga.

In fact when Patanjali speaks of ‘asana’ he is in no way at all referring to Handstands or Downward Facing Dogs; he’s talking about the position you choose to sit in while meditating – a stationary seated posture with the sole purpose of achieving a deep meditative state.


Recently, I've noticed social media bombarding us with glamorized photos of asanas. Asanas on the beach. Asanas in the gym. Asanas in yoga studios. Asanas in home studios. Not that I am exempt from posting yoga selfies, but I began to wonder why there wasn't more emphasis on the other seven limbs. Most notably, the Yamas and Niyamas. I suppose those aspects aren’t as pretty or attractive to the eye, or even noticeable to the eye for that matter, as they deal with aspects other than the physical body. Let’s break down Patanjali’s Eight Limbs:


  • Yama (moral discipline)

  • Niyama (observances)

  • Asana (physical postures)

  • Pranayama (breathing techniques)

  • Pratyahara (sense withdrawal)

  • Dharana (concentration)

  • Dhyana (absorption or meditation)

  • Samadhi (enlightenment or bliss)

For the sake of this discussion, let’s look deeper at the Yamas and Niyamas - the ‘moral codes’ or ways of ‘right living.’

Yamas

Ahimsa (non-harming or non-violence in thought, word and deed)

Satya (truthfulness)

Asteya (non-stealing)

Brahmacharya (celibacy or ‘right use of energy’)

Aparigraha (non-greed or non-hoarding)

Niyamas

Saucha (cleanliness)

Santosha (contentment)

Tapas (discipline, austerity or ‘burning enthusiasm)

Svadhyaya (study of the self and of the texts)

Isvara Pranidhana (surrender to a higher being, or contemplation of a higher power)


Ok, reality check, Anjali: You are NOT practicing yoga - asanas are not the total package. This was the epiphany that summoned me to look deeper into my ‘Self’ and actual footing on the yogic path. To some degree, I was upholding these ancient moral codes but occasionally deviating. In essence, I knew I could do better and desired to do better. Perhaps I needed to focus less on the physical practice and more on my inner practice? This realization was the beginning of Svadhyaya, or self-study. To translate svadhyaya as “self-study,” first break down each Sanskrit term. The first part of the word—sva—means “self.” The second part—dhyaya—is derived from the verb root dhyai, which means “to contemplate, to think on, to recollect, or to call to mind.” Thus, dhyaya is “study”—to study one’s own self.

To start, I needed to remove myself from the outer world for a bit. That meant taking a break from spending too much unnecessary time on social media. To go deeper, I had to cut myself off from external influences and retract. It felt organic and necessary. The moment I made that decision, a flashing bolt of clarity hit my brain. My energy was consolidating and finally channelling in the right direction. It felt refreshing, like I was getting to know myself again.

I was ok with taking a break from physically-demanding yoga postures. In fact, my body needed it. It was my soul that needed the reboot - the subtler aspects that actually refine our existence and play a vital role in precise clarity and vision. There’s a saying that you have to know what you want in life. In reality, you have to know YOU. You have to know your Self.

When you can connect to that aspect of your existence, the truest space, all else simply aligns.

The irony is we are looking for a soulmate without having met our own soul. How is it logical? I’m not sure how the last tidbit of this blog turned into dating advice, but my best advice and solution to life’s challenges is to master your Self then the universe aligns you with that which matches you. I know my journey will continue. This is a path that takes twists and turns, but somehow, when we truly listen, it continuously calls us home.



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