Svadhyaya: Study & Understand the Self
When you set yourself up to be a yoga practitioner, you´re embarking on a journey of self discovery. Although we attribute so many meanings and purposes to yoga, in essence yoga is a system of self-inquiry and self-exploration. Flexibility and general wellbeing are simply by products of the time and energy you put in learning and understanding who you truly are, beyond the roles you take on the world, beyond your wants and aversions.
The study of yoga is the study of Self - Svadhyaya, the 5th personal precept observed in Patanjali´s Yoga Sutras. Self-study can be cultivated through the wisdom contained in the many scriptures of yoga but self-understanding relies on our ability to self-reflect and most important how we integrate and embody the teachings of yoga in our daily lives. We can say Svadhyaya is the continuous and organic exploration of one self.
Practicing Svadhyaya requires courage. Courage to ask the complex and uncomfortable questions while maintaining objectivity. Questions like:
- Do I know myself intimately?
- What brings me joy?
- What do I have aversion of?
- How do I feel?
- What inspires me?
- What do I do that invites balance in my actions?
- How do I let myself down?
- Do I accept myself as I am?
- Beyond what I know about myself, what else is there?
In this exploration of Self we aim to find out what is our True Nature, or some might call it our Divine nature. Understanding our True Nature opens a new way to feel ourselves and our place in the world. In Vedic philosophy, the self is part individual, or personal and part collective, or cosmic. The notion of individual self and cosmic self are represented in Ayurveda and Vedic philosophy through the concepts of Prakriti & Purusha. Interestingly enough, in Ayurveda, one needs to know his/hers Individual Constitution (Prakriti) in order to select the best foods and practices for one self. Without this understanding, we simply follow standardised diets and practices, together with socially prescribed truths, that may very well be counter-intelligent to our individual nature.
The perception of self is incredibly important when we are learning about about the self. Our perceptions of reality and ourselves need to be tuned and sharp. This is when all the other aspects of yoga come to play. The practice of yama & nyama, or the social and personal precepts, the cultivation of body and mind, through asana (posture), pranayama (breath control) and dharana (meditation), help to clear the mind so the perception of self and reality is objective. The ancient disciples and nowadays science too, demonstrates how our self-perception determines the kind of experience you are having in the world.
When you add beliefs together, you create a perception. Your perceptions have everything to do with the choices you make, the behaviours you exhibit, the relationships you chose, and the realities you create.” Dr Joe Dispenza
As a yoga student consider that you will be studying forever, as "your-self" continues to change and evolve. The aim is always to raise our consciousness and awareness with an invitation of starting with us to ultimate feel how we add our individual part to the collective story. The better we know ourselves, the better we can truthfully participate in the world we wish to create.
If you enjoy this kind of post and explorations consider our 5 Elements Yoga Teacher Training where we study the practical applications of Vedic philosophy and use these concepts as tools for self-development.