Thursday, June 17, 2010

Svadhyaya, or Self-Study

And now for the Niyama that’s by far the most difficult to pronounce . . . svad-HYA-ya, most broadly defined as self-study.

Svadhyaya is about striving to know oneself. Finding ways to get to know oneself better -- through meditation, journaling, writing, asking for feedback and help. It’s about wanting to know the truth and raising one’s self-awareness – the good and the not-so-good.

For most of us, understanding ourselves better is a natural consequence of a regular yoga practice. The principle of svadhyaya asks us to apply ourselves diligently to this process – actively working to get to know, and understand, oneself better.

Of course, there’s a danger in applying oneself too diligently to this practice – it can make us self-centered and self-absorbed. I think it’s especially important when refining our svadhyaya practice also to cultivate awareness of the other people in our lives.

I used to journal all the time – several times a day. When I suffered my first bout of depression and anxiety, a therapist advised that I cut back on the journaling, as it was probably aggravating my anxiety. She was right. Very likely, I was overanalyzing pretty much everything.

Now I rarely write in a journal. But I find that good conversations with good friends and family help me to get to know myself – and others – better. Especially when discussing the challenges we face, we end up learning a lot about ourselves.

Yoga just seems to show up all over the place in everyday life, doesn’t it?