“Svadhyaya ishta devata samprayogah”, Yoga Sutra 2.44
Svadhyaya is the fourth of the Niyamas from Patanjali’s 8 limbs of the yoga sutra. The meaning of Swadhyaya is self-study and reflection to acquire the virtues or positive qualities on a yoga journey.
I always thought I knew myself. I know what I look like, I know what I love, who I am, my desires, how I will react in certain situations, my abilities, my qualities, and my values.
But did I really know myself? There are constant changes in the life path. The stability I had, or I thought I had, vanished by that time. I got married, had kids, started working, and by that time found myself doing things that are not true to the way I believed they should be, I wasn’t honest with myself. I let go of things I liked doing because I had to take care of the house, and kept finding excuses, such as not having enough time. I had to compromise and do what other people wanted or expected me to do. I found myself fulfilling other people’s desires, walking in other people’s stories of life. The word ‘Myself’ felt like it was somebody else’s.
And then I start asking “do I really know myself?” and the answer is – Not anymore, and actually I never knew myself. I thought I knew myself but it was through other people’s eyes. I did what people around me thought my life should be like. What I should study, where I should work. The keywords were – I should. My mind wasn’t clear. I was distracted by others’ desires.
Looking inside myself as I am, how my mind is working, and what qualities I would like to follow was the first step to Svadhyaya.
I started experiencing and being aware of what I am doing. Cutting the ego, attachments, and fears let me start knowing myself better. I started realizing that my life was filled with distractions, and I had to clear my journey.
My way of looking inside was by practicing yoga and being in focus on the movements and the breaths.
There are some ways to deepen our self-study, Swadhyaya. The aim is to help slow down our thoughts and block out external distractions –
- Practice Yoga – ask yourself why some poses are more difficult for you. What can I do to release tension in some poses?
- Meditate, use mantras, and emphasize breathing techniques – all of it can help deepen your self-study and self-awareness while sitting quietly, experiencing the moment.
- Daily Self Reflection – You can release your attachment to your ego and ask yourself – Do you like who you are? Do you want to change anything?
Swadhyaya is the process of improvement and self-study.
The key to Swadhyaya is listening to yourself. Make your own journey, follow the qualities you want to achieve, and become better every day.
“Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the Self.” — THE BHAGAVAD GITA