Home yoga Self-Study and the Yoga Sutras: Incorporating Svadhyaya in Yoga and in Life

Self-Study and the Yoga Sutras: Incorporating Svadhyaya in Yoga and in Life

by Marianne Navada
Svadhyaya yoga

Yoga philosophy offers a path to a more fulfilling life. One aspect to achieve a higher state in life is through svadhyaya. Translated as self- study or self-reflection, svadhyaya in yoga emphasizes the importance of looking inward and continued learning.

How does yoga allow you to self-reflect? 

In a yoga practice, the clarity of mind you create allows you to listen to yourself and to more clearly assess your situation. We are more aware of the choices we make. Hence, we cultivate the art of slowing down. Slowing down doesn’t mean we are slow to act. Rather, we don’t feel rushed because we panic less when faced with uncertainty and fear. 

Our time on the mat helps us train for self-reflection. When we embark on an asana or physical practice, we purposefully put ourselves in uncomfortable positions. And through our breathing and focus, we listen and feel what our body is telling us. When things get tough, we know how to find our voice amidst the noise.  

With all the distractions we currently have, most of us probably spend more time looking at other people’s lives and faces on a screen rather looking at our hands or feet. Do we spend more time listening to other people than reflecting on how our day went? Svadhyaya tells us to look inward, before anything else.

Here are ways to incorporate Svadhyaya in a yoga class

In the grounding sequence, you can use words to convey the concept. Here’s an example: Your yoga practice is a conversation with yourself. Use this time to connect with that inner voice. Listen when it’s telling you to step back from a pose or maybe take it to the next level. 

Ask Questions. Encourage internal conversation by asking the questions that will allow students to self-reflect. How are you feeling in this pose?  What is your body telling you? 

The gaze or drishti: call out dristhis that lets students look at a body part. For example, the toes in seated forward fold, or the tip of the nose during a standing balance. 

Beyond the Physical Practice

Self study in yoga, goes beyond the physical practice. Svadhyaya can come from the study of scriptures, meditation, and breath-work.

In the bigger picture, self-study is not limited to our yoga practice or philosophy. Journaling is one way to analyze our thoughts and give us the time and space to figure out our thoughts. 

***Niyamas or self-training is one of the 8 Limb Path of Yoga. Under the Niyamas, Svadyaya is one of the five concepts. 

Commit to living.