Svadhyaya is one of the yoga niyamas, or the personal observances in yoga, how we should relate to ourselves. Niyamas make up the 2nd of 8 limbs of yoga. For reference, the physical yoga poses or asanas are the 3rd of the 8 limbs of yoga (you can check out more here).
Svadhyaya means self-reflection or self-study. Sva means “self’ adhyaya means “inquiry” or “examination”. Self-reflective consciousness. Intentionally find self-awareness in all our activities and efforts, even to the point of welcoming and accepting our limitations. It teaches us to be centered.
Aadhil Palkhivala explains here that Svadhyaya means careful self-observation and that during our yoga practice we should look within and feel what is going on inside our bodies. Pause, become still, and feel the changes. Build self-awareness. When we are practicing, we are all alone, even though we may be in a class full of people. We are not in competition with our neighbors. The focus during yoga practice is completely internal. Nurture self-knowledge. Develop a practice of constant inner reflection so we will become aware of the changes that yoga is making.
In my yoga classes, I love guiding the last time through a vinyassa with eyes closed so students can shut out the view of the room around, to inwardly focus and feel. Try it on in your at-home practice.
In my own yoga practice, I like to use a common pose such as child’s pose or downward facing dog as my reminder to check in with my body and breath. When I’m in down dog for maybe the 10th time in a class, I try to ask myself what has changed in my body since the last down dog? Where is my head at? I breathe. I remind myself to slow down, inwardly focus, and thoroughly FEEL that exact moment.