16 Sep What Is Svadhyaya?
The fourth of the niyama’s in many ways could describe the entire process of Yoga containing the most subtle yet transformation elements. The word Svadhyaya is literally translated as self-study but as with many ancient text the interpretation can be deeply personal. I try avoid absolutes and right or wrong ideas or translations when discussing any text as often we find our own understanding is what helps us connect to the verses. We can look at Svadhyaya in a very literal sense and say that Yoga provides us an opportunity to observe ourself. Who are you? Can you go deeper into that posture, Is your mind clear or clouded? Does your back bend or bow in that way?
Also in a very literal sense some have taken the practice to mean the continuing study of self which leads to self improvement. I took this view when I first came across the Sutra’s & I took to reading more of the ancient scriptures, I re-applied my study of the Bible & Pantanjali’s Sutras but also began to read books of particle physics & meta physics.
I haven’t stopped this but I have adjusted my understanding of Svadhyaya. Now I take a more personal approach to this Niyama. When you do that it opens up an opportunity to connect to our true self. The person behind the job, family, wife or husband can be found when we turn our attention inward. So much of our lives is given to external experience, we become so well tuned into watching & even studying the people around us we almost forget who we are. We know our children, friends, partners & even boss inside out but do we know ourselves that well?
If we are honest we don’t. We can know every fact, scripture or chant but does that open up who we are?
Yes, maybe it can but so too can doing the more subtle elements of practice.
We haven’t spent much time alone with our selves since we joined the big bad world of mortgages and rush hour traffic so how can we really know how that inner spirit is getting on? While the practice of Svadhyaya doesn’t mean to judge or self improve its inevitable that we do. Recognition of our limitations, challenges & ares of self improvement all have their merit if harnessed positively but the essence of Svadhyaya is to observe. Observe ourself but don’t judge. Its much more challenging than you think but this gesture of observing our nature will lead us to something more enlightening than self improvement. When we practice Svadhyaya we begin to dispel the separation we often feel from our deeper self and also intern from those around us. This feeling & experience that we are connected to others, we are a thousand, million miracles continually happening & yet we are not better, no different to anyone or anything else can be both uplifting & humbling.
That for me is pure Yoga.