“Study thy self, discover the divine.” – Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, 2.44.
In the 8 limbs of yoga, Pantanjali asks that we trust our true nature is what we are seeking for. The Sanskrit term, Svadhyaya, translates to “self-study”; “Sva” means “own” or “self”, and “adhyaya” means “learning” or “studying”. Look within, study your Self (not just yourself, but your Self; this goes beyond the superficial), and you will be revealed.
In everyday language, we speak about our ‘self’ unproblematically like: ‘I’ had kaya toast for breakfast, ’I’ went for yoga, ‘I’ am zen and easy going, ‘I’ practiced Savasana, ‘I’ want to pass the 200YTT, etc. All of which implies the ‘self’ as a singular being with different attributes and capabilities. From a Svadhyaya POV/explanation, the ‘Self’ dives deeper, it is the subject of our experiences, an inner agent making all conscious decisions and actions, a collection of opinions, desires, aspirations and emotions. This ‘self’ that defines ‘me’ (or ‘you’) is the part of myself (or ‘yourself’) that Svadhyaya encourages us to seek.
Once you are familiar with and know your ‘Self’, Samadhi (super-conscious state) comes more easily. Despite being placed in situations that would normally affect oneself (before deep introspection), as long as you know your ‘Self’, you will be unshaken or rather, unaffected by the stimulus in your surroundings.
As esoteric sounding as it may be, Svadhyaya is observed and can be practiced in simple mindful notions such as:
Practice open meditation (e.g. being aware of everything that is happening around you without responding) or concentrative meditation, if you would prefer (e.g. staring at a dot with a circle in the periphery as taught by Master Ram in our 200YTT). Free your mind from distractions of your surroundings.
- Studying the scriptures
The teachings of the Bhagavad Gita, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, and the Upanishads offer a multitude of wisdom and perhaps, provide insight into your ‘Self’.
Putting your thoughts down on paper and revisiting it gives you an opportunity to reflect on them and integrate the learnings (that serve you) into your daily life. I find this the most helpful; journaling every thought, every feeling and opinion really bring things into perspective.
- Practicing yoga
“Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the Self.”
— The Bhagavad Gita
An act of Svadhyaya here, is as simple as filming your practice. They say the way you approach yoga is a reflection of your approach on life. Filming and consciously observing your practice can reveal more about your ‘Self’ than you would think. In dance, we often take this approach to work on self-improvement as well as synergy. In yoga, the first time I did it (for our ultra-beginners vid) I noticed things about myself that I didn’t before, which I shall not reveal in this post because it is for my ‘Self’ and myself only 🌚.
Dig deep and you will find your ‘Self’ that is really there.
Tirisula 200YTT 8 Limbs of Yoga notes