The Yoga of Self-Study and Transformation
Why do we turn to yoga? Most of the time, we want something to change in our lives. Perhaps we hope to find more calm, learn to move with more confidence, live with less pain, or simply sleep better. Change can indeed be a positive force in our lives as we strive for health and balance. At the same time, too much of a focus on change can be counterproductive, as it sends a subtle message that something’s not right with us and we need to change or fix something about ourselves in order to find balance. This can interfere with our ability to enjoy life just as it is, in this moment.
...too much of a focus on change can be counterproductive, as it sends a subtle
message that something’s not right with us and we need to change or fix
something about ourselves in order to find balance.
A yogic alternative to this “fixing” approach is to focus on creating more awareness and more understanding of our present circumstances. To create a shift, rather than looking away from a situation with a hope to change it, we need to look at our situation more closely, accept what’s happening in the moment, and understand it more deeply. This new understanding will lead not simply to change, but to a profound transformation from the inside out.
By engaging our minds and our bodies with yoga we can learn about
To create new habits and new patterns we need to have insight into where we are right now. We need to better understand the workings of our body and our mind. Yoga is a perfect tool for this kind of inquiry. By engaging our minds and our bodies with yoga we can learn about ourselves and figure out how our present and past experiences are contributing to our current physical and mental states. Once we have this insight, it is easier to understand and let go of what is not serving us any more, as well as to develop new habits.
In yogic philosophy, self-study, or Swadhyaya, is one of the aspects of Kriya yoga, the yoga of action. Kriya yoga is about bringing the teachings of yoga into our everyday life. In The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the ancient authoritative text on yoga, Swadhyaya is defined as the study of the highest Self through wisdom texts, nature and introspection. (It’s important to note that the “Self” in yoga is different from the “self “ of western psychology, which focuses on our individual character, but is instead about developing a sense of non-separateness from all life). Through self-study we can transform ourselves, our habitual thoughts and behaviors.
Swadhyaya is defined as the study of the highest Self through wisdom texts,
nature and introspection.
As part of Swadhyaya, a self-study practice, we read to inspire and enlighten ourselves, we go into nature to connect to a natural meditative state, and we practice introspection. It is while practicing introspection that we can use the tools of yoga to gain insight into the workings of the mind and the body. We can notice when we are feeling stressed or holding tension, and take a pause. By spending time developing body and breath awareness we can become more attuned to the workings of our nervous system. We can notice when we begin to feel stressed and take action to ground ourselves. When we are attuned to the body and the mind we also become more aware of the “stories” we tell ourselves and can choose to continuously bring ourselves back into the present moment. We can consciously replace negative thoughts with positive affirmations. When we feel embodied, we become more mindful about how we move and how we take care of our bodies. We can notice physical tension, or the way we are using muscles in the body, and take action to adjust the way we move or sit to alleviate and prevent discomfort.
With the present-moment awareness, we begin to realize the deeper knowing
This deeper connection to our own nature, both physically and mentally, is what brings transformation that is beyond simple change. With the present-moment awareness, we begin to realize the deeper knowing of non-separateness, of our Self being like the wave of the ocean that is distinct but a part of the greater body of water at the same time.
Interested in exploring how to use yoga for transformation? Book a free 30 min consultation call with Asya.