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.
When love is on the mind today, expand your boundaries of what you think love is. I believe we are here to learn to love. To love others, to love ourselves. Making it to my yoga mat helps me learn this. Compassion is a universal language that every person in the world understands. Conversely, invert that to your own self-image. Compassion is a universal language that YOUR heart understands. Is your mind and are your physical actions showing compassion to your heart? Exercising self-compassion can be one of the hardest kinds of compassion.
I love this quote from the Dalai Lama: “More fundamental than religion is our basic human spirituality. We have a basic human disposition towards love, kindness, and affection, irrespective of whether we have a religious framework or not. When we nurture this most basic human resource- when we set about cultivating those basic inner values which we all appreciate in others, then we start to live spiritually.” [From the Dalai Lama’s Facebook page 🙂 ]
Compassion is our natural language, our “basic human disposition,” and when we exercise compassion- especially self-compassion-, we can have transcendent moments (whatever your beliefs) where you can see inside yourself, and learn more about who you are and what you’re capable of.
Ahimsa is a Hindu spiritual principle important to yoga. It is one of the five Yamas(restraints) which make up the code of conduct, the first of the eight limbs of yoga. The exact definition of ahimsa varies from one tradition to another. Ahimsa is a Sanskrit word which can be translated most directly as “refraining from harmfulness.” Ahimsa means kindness and non-violence towards all living things; it respects living beings as a unity, the belief that all living things are connected. [adapted from Wikipedia]
Next time you roll out your yoga mat, in the silence and solitude of your rectangular rubber sanctuary, rest in child’s pose or savasana for a good 5 minutes at least. Think of how you can let go of things you can’t control. Think of how you can exercise more compassion towards others regardless of if they care or not. Think of how big your heart is- that it can love others and that it can love yourself. Tell yourself how strong you are, how beautiful you are, how you can and will reveal to the world who you know yourself to be on the inside. Speak the language of compassion- it’s what your heart best understands. Only you can control the mental chatter inside your mind. Make it loving, gentle, and encouraging.
What are your thoughts? How do you feel about Ahimsa in your daily life? What kind of experiences have you had in the quiet of your yoga mat? Slow down, even if for just 1 minute today!
Prana Fitness is a business built on the principles of yoga. The running groups and cycling groups have yogic & tai chi alignment and endurance principles. This support blog urges you to create your future, to live a full life, to utilize your body to its full design and potential, and to be compassionate towards yourself. The yoga classes…are….well…yoga. Someday Prana Fitness will include personal training sessions using only your body, no weights or equipment. Full library of yoga and fitness-related books and DVDs available to check out and borrow. Bringing the principles of yoga and inner balance to open water swimming and triathlon support groups. Fit Kids programs in local schools to promote yoga, activity, natural nutrition, and educate on childhood obesity. Private appointments for Thai yoga massage or acupuncture or hypnobirthing or who else knows. Hopefully someday Prana Fitness will open up shop in a few other metropolitan areas across the US, slowly building up a community-wide presence there. It’s an exciting journey that has me giddy every single day.
In yogic philosophy, there’s a notion of certain practices and avoidances that will help purify your soul and make you a better individual, make you feel better. These are called the yamas and niyamas. One of those is this concept of “AHIMSA.” Ahimsa is a sanskrit word meaning non-violence. You could read entire books on the subject, but what most intrigues me is the idea that we are most violent towards ourselves. We berate our reflection in the mirror, being violent to our emotional bodies. We live with regrets or feelings of inadequacy. We compare ourselves to others. We ignore the good about ourselves and focus on the perceived bad about ourselves. We put junk food into our bodies or consume destructive materials or avoid working out, being violent to our physical bodies. Here’s more reading on Ahimsa if you’re interested: http://www.dlshq.org/teachings/ahimsa.htm
Today and always, keep the thought of ahimsa near your heart. Exercise self-compassion. It’s a journey to overcome years of self-violence, but it’s a conscious decision now, and someday it won’t be, it will come to you naturally. Treat your body well. Give it the exercise, the quiet moments, the healthy foods, the sleep, and the water that it deserves and craves, what it was designed to run on. Be gentle towards yourself. You are freakin’ amazing and deserve to be reminded of it once in a while….
How do you feel about this? Despite your philosophical or religious beliefs, there’s something to it. There’s some little nugget you can pull from it and make your day beautiful. What nugget speaks to you? How do you remember to exercise self-compassion?
This was from our old blog. Had to share it. You know who you are! And you ARE beautiful!