Ways to Practice Svadhyaya

Svadhyaya means self study and reflection in Sanskrit and is the fourth Niyama of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Simply put, Svadhyaya  is process of getting to know your psychic, emotional, and soul interior, in order to get in touch with your deeper Self. It  represents our search for meaning. 

When we get to know our small Self – which could include our personality, our ego, and our identity – we learn the many habits, behaviors, and ways of relating to the world that have been conditioned by our experiences. In order to transform, we need to get really intimate with these habits, behaviors, and perceptions so that we can identify where they’re ultimately not serving us. This awareness can bring great change and progress, while also getting us in touch with our larger Soul Self, the Self that knows what’s best for our evolution.

Yoga asana practice will allow you to discover areas of tension and stress within your body, especially in your shoulders and hips, which you may not have even realize accumulated along your daily life. These areas of tension in your physical body often reveal some key fears and disturbances residing your inner world. Through mindful asana practice, we can study and understand our physical and mental limits by observing how we tend to react to easy or difficult situations. However, asana practice is only the tip of the iceberg. There are many ways we can practice Svadhaya on and off the mat. 

Svadhyaya Yoga Practice

You can incorporate svadhyaya (self-study) into your yoga practice with an asana, mantra, and mudra to help bring into focus the subtle and not-so-subtle ways this niyama plays out in your life.

To incorporate svadhyaya into your own life and practice, we can practice with the asana, mudra (hand-and-finger gesture), and mantra (a sacred utterance repeated continuously) below:

Asana: Padmasana (Lotus Pose)

Come to a comfortable seated pose with the tops of the feet resting on opposite thighs. Sit on a block, blanket, or bolster for additional support.

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Mudra: Dhyana Mudra

The Dhyana Mudra is the mudra of meditation, concentration and the attainment of spiritual perfection. It increases the ability to focus, as an exercise of concentration. Dhyana Mudra helps you find the emptiness of your mind, so you can find your inner self. When you perform this Mudra, you can eliminate the stress and mental pressure. You will reach out to the state of bliss. This is the most common Mudra used in meditation. The two hands, which form a bowl, show that the interior itself is free, pure and empty in order to receive everything necessary on the spiritual path. And since there is no empty space in the universe, everything that seems ”empty” is full of the energy of subtle matter, this void will be filled with new energy. Our thoughts and emotions will determine the quality. That is why it is so important that a good reconciliation work has been done before and live in peace with everything. A key point of this Mudra is that it has a strong impact on the ‘Sacral Chakra’. The ‘Sacral Chakra’ is usually the first to be collapsed. Out-of-balance ‘Sacral Chakra’ may cause the inability to meet deadlines, which will cause more stress and more anxiety.
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Method of doing Dhyana Mudra:
The two hands are placed on the lap, right hand on left with fingers fully stretched (four fingers resting on each other and the thumbs facing upwards towards one another diagonally), palms facing upwards; in this manner, the hands and fingers form the shape of a triangle, which is symbolic of the spiritual fire. Hands and arms form a closed circle of power, which also corresponds with the position of the legs in the sitting meditation posture.
Benefit of Dhyana Mudra:
• Mental level: Eliminates the stress and the mental pressure.
• Emotional level: Clean and renew emotional energy, healing the wounds of the past.
• Spiritual level: it is certainly for what is most frequently used because it awakens the wisdom within and puts in touch with your own divinity. It also introduces you into the everything and allows you to live very elevated and spiritual experiences. It helps to awaken the conscience.

Mantra: Tat tvam asi

Gaze at the triangle while chanting Tat tvam asi, which can be translated as “You are what you seek.” This meditative pose, mudra, and mantra allow you to observe, without judgment, the thoughts, desires, habits, cravings, and repetitive behaviors that cause you to disconnect from the Self. This wisdom is what ultimately illuminates our shadows and sets us free from the bonds of self-judgment.

Hold the lotus pose, with its mudra, for 3–5 breaths, mindfully chanting, aloud or internally, its accompanying mantra.

Svadhyaya in everyday life

Svadhyaya in the sense of studying our selves in daily life though, requires us to really take our yoga practice off the mat. Knowing what we’re doing in each moment requires us to pay attention, but asking the question “why am I doing this?” requires us to be aware and fully present, which is ‘paying attention’ on a whole other level. This comes down to recognising our habits, and discerning between the ones which come largely from an ego-based place, and which ones are the result of listening to our true Self.

The practice of taking a proverbial step back and observing and questioning our actions can eventually allow us to disentangle ourselves from those aspects of our lives that are harmful towards our wellbeing. As with anything worth doing, it isn’t easy, but it’s well worth the effort and dedication.

The practice of svadhyaya requires satya (honesty) in order to view ourselves from an honest standpoint, tapas (discipline) – because taking an honest look at ourselves isn’t always something we like doing, and ahimsa (non violence) which reminds us to look upon ourselves without judgement or criticism.

“Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the Self” – The Bhagavad Gita