On this blog I’ve been covering the Yamas and the Niyamas, (which make up one arm of the eightfold path of yoga). In review, the Yamas tell students what not to do. Posts about these restraints can be found here: Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, Brahmacharya and Aparigraha.
The Niyamas remind us what we should do. We’ve already explored three of the Niyamas, Saucha, Santosha and Tapas. In this post, I delve into Svadhyaya, which means self-study. Truly, the possibilities are endless. If you master this, and become the observer of your own self, you will never be bored again.
You can explore Svadhyaya right this minute by stopping, taking a breath and checking in with how you feel. Are you feeling rushed? Are you sad? Are you angry? Content? Blissed out? Just notice without judgement what your primary emotion is. Be with it for a moment.
Are you aware of a favorite color? Smell? Sound? Taste? You may have always loved the color yellow, but check in; is it your favorite color today?
Are your thoughts really your thoughts? Is your thinking influenced by what you’ve been told by others?
Pausing to notice how we feel, especially when strong emotions come up offers an opportunity to go deeper. Do you know what your triggers are?
Most of us can see very clearly where others need to grow, but are we able to look at ourselves objectively? Likely not. We all have blind spots. How willing are you to explore your own blind spots? Your triggers will take you there. What bugs you? We are never upset for the reason we think. There is a whole extremely complex history behind every strong reaction. We give situations all the meaning they have for us. Another person faced with the same situation might react very differently or have no reaction at all to something that sets me off. Observing our personal reactions is a rich exercise. The more we do it, the more empowered we are. With self study, when triggered, we can choose to “react” the same way we always do, or we can choose to “respond” differently. Self observation, Svadhyaya, is key to this awareness, and gives us choice.
Are you aware of how you treat people? Are you kind and respectful? Sweet as punch? Are you condescending? Are you a giver (to a fault)? A taker (to a fault)? What’s your nature? Again, no judgement. Knowing ourselves can help to keep these tendencies in check so we can have balanced energy exchanges with others.
Speaking of energy…are you full of energy? Or does it take a little while for your enthusiasm to build? Are you an early adopter to new ideas, or do you need to hang back a bit to decide? There is merit to both ways of being.
Do you have a biting tongue? If so, why?
A hearty laugh?
Are you tired? Thirsty? Lonely?
What brings you joy?
On the mat, notice everything. Notice your breath. Notice the feel of the body as it roots down, lifts up, stretches. Notice where your mind goes. Ask yourself, who am I? Right now? And now? And now? Notice your emotional reactions as you breathe and move into each pose. No judgement.
Savor your self-study. Nothing is more fascinating than you.
And then ask yourself, who is doing all this noticing?
Take a breath.
Be with that.
Now you’re cooking.