“Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self”
For a while now I have found it hard to find regular space for my yoga practice. I had started to really worry that perhaps it was a natural evolution of where my life seemed to be settling at the moment, and that I was simply slipping away from it. Naturally, I hoped this wasn’t the case and that like most things in life, this situation was temporary. I would find my way back, or at least I would find a different way to practice.
Over the past many years the physical practice of yoga has become an increasingly important part of my life. During my travels, yoga furthermore evolved to become a real feature in my daily routine. It became my friend, my companion and we enjoyed a great relationship together!
Like so many other people, in yoga I had found space, peace and calm and I loved it. It grounded me. It gave me perspective. And in simple terms, I always felt good when I found myself on the mat. I was so grateful for this and while I was ever-aware that my freeliving travel lifestyle generously allowed for the indulgence of free time, I promised myself to continue to commit to my physical yoga practice on my return home.
And for a long time I did. Despite the changed landscape, weather and work commitments, my mat settled into its new home and I continued my daily practice of Ashtanga Yoga. My commitment was strong and my mind maintained its drishti and focused on the importance of creating this space and mind/body/spirit unity.
But sadly over time, other factors began to slowly creep in. My physical practice waned and for various reasons I had to adjust to a new way of practicing and accept that, certainly for now, I could not commit to the daily practice that I had grown to love.
Although I thought I had accepted this fact and felt I had found some way of modifying my practice, I still found myself feeling lost. Slowly, my day became less focused. My sleep became somewhat disturbed. My thoughts became increasingly busy and my head began to feel evermore stressed. The lessons in patience, faith, contentment, ease and detachment I had built up in my years travelling and through Yoga felt farther and farther away. Had I lost my drishti?
In having to abstain from daily physical practice, I missed my friend and companion. And typically the “vicious cycle” began and my mind started to feel too busy to even attempt meditation. I worried that Yoga too would become a distant memory, to be left on the shelf together with old journals and photo albums.
And then an invitation came. To contribute to my good friend’s Shree Hari Yoga community and to practice my own “Svadhyaya”.
In writing and re-reading my first blog on Ahimsa last week, I am reminded of the importance of self-exploration and self-study and another realization is dawning! As well as having to adjust to a slower physical practice of asanas, perhaps a revitalized commitment to self-study is exactly what is needed right now.
As it is written in The Bhagavad Gita “Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self”. The ever-so- worthwhile practice of self-inquiry or “Svadhyaya” is another way of practicing Yoga and perhaps this is the perfect asana right now!
Niyama, the second Limb of Yoga, brings us into a deeper relationship with ourselves. Svadhyaya is outlined as the fourth Niyama, and literally translates as the inquiry or examination of the self. Sva = self. Adhyaya = inquiry or examination. It allows us to reflect upon our true nature and uncovering the illusion or “maya” we are able to see our gifts and talents as well as our limitations and shadows.
Whilst traditionally, Svadhyaya meant the daily study and recitation of the ancient Indian scriptures (the “Vedas”), we have now come to appreciate that any activity that cultivates self-reflective consciousness can be considered Svadhyaya. In considering this, I remember how much I always enjoy reading, journaling and keeping a diary. In somewhat also neglecting this over the months, perhaps this is another reason for my feelings of being lost or ungrounded?
The simple act of putting pen to paper and letting the mind flow in the natural way reveals so much. Reflecting on moments and ideas that arise in our heads and teasing out any thoughts or stresses can uncover so many hidden truths. Through reading and journalling, we can always learn something new about ourselves and through this learning, we can come to understand and accept our true selves more and more and to see how our souls are connected to a higher and almost collective consciousness. Just like through practicing meditation or asanas, this journey of self-study allows us to see everything that we are ready to see in that moment.
For me, for now, the practice of Svadhyaya is a most welcomed gift and one that came at exactly the right time!
Om Namah Shivaya.