Svadhyaya comes from the Sanskrit words "Sva" meaning self and "Adhyaya" meaning lesson, lecture or chapter. So, Svadhyaya is about the study of the self. If you haven't noticed, through the exploration of the Yamas and Niyamas, there has been a gradual movement inward - from practicing compassion in the world, to refining ourselves in mind body and spirit. This is the 9th (out of 10) Yamas and Niyamas and it really asks us to look deep within.
Svadhyaya is much easier explained with the concept of little 's' self and big 'S' Self. The little self is dominated by our ego and by our fleeting sensory desires and pleasures. The little self can often live in survival mode where anxiety, fear, worry, doubt and judgement is. Our little self is all of the layers that we have built up to protect ourselves and all of the expectations that the world has placed on us.
Our Big Self knows that it is connected to the universe, to the divine, to something bigger than what we may be able to perceive and rests there. When we study the self, we are able to see the Big Self more clearly. When we study the Self, we realize that we are not our anxiety, our fear. We realize that we are not our jobs, or the luxuries we buy. When we study the Self, we shift into a more full awareness that we are already whole, we are already more than enough, we are already connected to the Earth, to all other creatures and to the divine without even trying. It already exists within us.
Svadhyaya is a deep dive into ourselves. When we start to refine (tapas) and shed layers away, we are able to see our true selves - our tendencies, the stories we tell ourselves, our deepest needs (little self things). When we are able to see the little self clearly, we can give it a big hug, thank it for all that it has done for us, and let it go to step into our own awareness as the Big Self.
We are almost to the end of our exploration of the Yamas and Niyamas, or ethics and values. These principles encourage us to turn inward and heal ourselves, and turn our gaze outward and heal the world. That is so much easier said than done. Sometimes when we turn our gaze inward it can bring up uncomfortable feelings or memories.
Here are a few ideas for how to practice Svadhyaya: • Take a Dosha quiz to find out how to support your mind, body and spirit using Ayurveda, the sister science of yoga! • Journal on a regular basis. The book The Artist's Way says to do three pages of stream of consciousness writing. This means, just sitting down each morning and writing whatever comes up without judgement or expectation then letting it move through you and out of your life if you're ready. • Take a Dharma Archetype quiz! Your Dharma is your soul's purpose in life and Sahara Rose is an amazing guide to living your life following your path unapologetically. (Her podcast is one of my favorites!) • Invest time in reading books or articles, listening to podcasts, or watching shows/videos that resonate with and inspire you. I follow The Holistic Psychologist on Instagram and her content never fails to inspire a deep look inward. • Getting out in nature to connect with your own true nature. • Inviting in silence and solitude so that you can really draw awareness to and compassion for all parts of yourself. • Attending a Satsang event. Satsang means "a gathering to speak truth." Amy Pearce-Hayden hosts a free Spirit & Satsang on Zoom every Sunday at 11am where students and teachers discuss Eastern philosophy and how it applies to every day living. Everyone is welcome to show up as their authentic self and be held.
Love & Well Wishes Kiara Flowers
REFERENCES: Living the Sutras by Kelly DiNardo and Amy Pearce-Hayden Light on Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by Edwin Bryant The Yogi Assignment by Kino MacGregor The Secret Power of Yoga by Nischala Joy Devi