Yoga Beyond Asana, Exploring Svadhyaya
Updated: Jul 31, 2022
Fortunately for the sake of the world Yoga continues to grow. More and more people are starting a Yoga practice and that is awesome news. Unfortunately, mant people who practice Yoga are only attending weekly Yoga classes. A typical Yoga class is 60-90 min. and focuses heavily on asana (physical postures). While an asana practice is absolutely important in providing a means to a healthy physical body, it tends to overshadow the need for a healthy mental and spiritual body as well. It is not that Yoga teachers are not teaching beyond asana, it is that it is nearly impossible to work in enough time for the other limbs of Yoga in a 60-90 minute class evenly and effectively. Because of this, many students recieve adequate time exploring a physical practice, but not enough time exploring a mental and spiritual practice.
As students, we look to our teacher to provide the education, but this is where I say we must take responsbility of ourseleves and continue to further our education and knowledge. We must not let our Yoga practice stop once we roll up our mat. Instead, we take our practice on the mat and extend it into our day and lives.
Today I focus on the practice of Svadhyaya.
Svadhyaya which many translate to mean self-study, is the 4th component of the Niyamas. The Niyamas being the 2nd limb in the 8 limbs of Yoga.
If you are somewhat new to Yoga then I may have already lost you.
Here's a super short Yoga lesson:
The word Yoga means "yoke" or "union." To unite the mind, body, and soul.
Patanjali, a sage in ancient Indian, wrote the Yoga Sutras which is a culmination of 196 sutras and includes theory and the "how to" of Yoga practice. Within the Yoga Sutras you will find the 8 limbs of Yoga. The 8 limbs of Yoga are a guide to follow with the end goal being liberation or non-suffering. Of the 8 limbs of Yoga, the 2nd limb is Niyama. Niyama is "to observe" and focuses on the observance of self with a goal being to improve self. One of the Niyamas is Svadhyaya which many translate to mean self-study.
This finally brings me to the question I pose and ask you to think about today:
Do you make time for self-study?
Do you have a practice which includes observing, studying, and reflecting on yourself?
If not, I ask you to consider why? Is it that you don't have the time? You don't know where to start? Or maybe it hadn't been something that you felt was really necessary?
I consider self-study or self-inquiry to be one of the most important aspects of my own personal Yoga practice, which is why I would like to share it with you. It is within the practice of self-study that we realize our habits, feelings/triggers and are able to sharpen our self-awareness. Creating a habit of self-study enables us to make powerful realizations. To move away from people, situations, scenarios that do not align with us and move towards what does align.
So how to do it?
Personally, I found that an easy way to begin the process of self-study was through daily journaling/reflection.
I invite you to give it a try!
Get yourself a new journal and allow a small amount of time each evening to reflect. Writing down your routines and thoughts about how you spend your time, and then allowing time to study, and process will reveal to you your habits, triggers, patterns. Realizations which bring about awareness make it possible to change/shift/evolve as a person.
Awareness is key. We cannot expect someone to change a behavior, including ourselves, if we are unaware of said behavior. We must take time to slow down and observe our thoughts, feelings, patterns and behaviors if we wish to continue to grow and evolve.
Journaling provides a safe space for exploration.
As always, my intention is to provide you with realistic and easy exercises. There are certainly other ways to practice self-inquiry/self-study and I do hope that you explore additional ideas/suggestions/practices to find what works best for you!
INJOY exploring your Yoga practice beyond the asana.
Be well. Berkleigh