I am feeling like spring is in the air. I was out this morning before class and there were crocus blooming in my yard (I am writing this in early March). While I am disappointed that we did not have a real winter, I love snow to cross country ski and snow shoe (no downhill till next year) and snuggling up by the fire with chai and and good book….I love all the seasons and am looking forward to getting back in the yard and gardens – and to practicing outdoors.
The word comes comes from the Sanskrit “sva” or self and “adhyaya” or study. Anything that you do to learn more about yourself is considered svadhyaya. Some of the translations also refer to ancient texts. This is relevant since the process of self-study or contemplation involves reading and studying and we must have some context around which to frame the inward examination. Perhaps the studies are of the Yoga Sutras, the Bhagavad Gita, the Holy Bible; these spiritual texts (or other readings and learnings) may help lead us along a journey of both external and internal reflection or study. TKV Desikachar defines svadhyaya as “Self-inquiry; any study that helps you understand yourself; the study of sacred texts.” I especially love the Bhagavad Gita and return to it often reading parts that I have highlighted.
As we do some self-reflection, we may discover why we engage in nonproductive habits or behaviors, we may discover things or thoughts that bring us joy that we have forgotten. Dedicating some time for this self-reflection helps us to remember and rediscover things about ourselves that are buried under our routines. We may also discover new things about ourselves that move us forward more purposefully.
For suggestions on how to incorporate svadhyaya into your life check this article:
Living our yoga off the mat perhaps means staying true to the self that you have studied and discovered.
Our Practice – Sukhasana-Easy Pose
Sukhasana is derived from the Sanskrit work sukha or ease and asana or posture.
As we practice svadhyaya we may find ourselves trying to meditate more (or to start a meditation practice). Starting with a short 3–5-minute meditation is perfect. This pose is one of the most common for seated meditation. It is also a common starting pose for many classes.
While accessible to many, if you are seated at a desk all day or have tight hips, sukhasana can be anything but “easy”:
Start seated on the mat and cross your legs. Placing a folded blanket under your buttocks to tip you pelvis ever so slightly forward/neutral may be helpful. If coming to sukhasana for meditation, perhaps sit on a meditation cushion or a stack of blankets. You will adjust these props so that your pelvis is neutral. If your hips are especially tight, placing blocks under each knee can provide support and comfort. You could also practice against a wall providing additional spinal support. If you do practice in one position for a long time you may want to switch the legs partway through your practice.
When we start in sukhasana activate the core and focus on keeping the spine long and crown to the sky. If using the posture for meditation, either soften the gaze or gently close the eyes and begin rhythmic breathing.
As we settle into the pose, we can become aware of our posture and make subtle adjustments to find the “suhka” or ease in the pose. As we relax and breathe, we can find calming energy for our mind and body.
For more detail on sukhasana, form and modifications see the article below by Charlotte Bell.
Meditating on Svadhyaya
Let’s remind ourselves, yet again, about the purpose of yoga. Sutra 1.2, “Yogas citta vrtti nirodhah” is “The restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is Yoga”. As we work and learn to control our mind (through meditation, breath, asanas, contemplation) we will achieve the goal of yoga.
"Learning to be present with yourself and to abide in that which is steady and comfortable does not allow space for self-judgment. When you live this way, you are practicing yoga: you are living fully.” ― Judith Hanson Lasater
Nurturing with Food – Spring Inspired Salad
I started this week’s blog with thoughts of spring. If when you are reading this spring is still in the air, you may be inspired to invoke spring with this salad. If it is still wintery, then maybe this will cheer you with thoughts of warmer weather to come. The ingredients are some of the first to show up in the farmer’s markets and grocery stores where spring comes earlier than it does in New England.
See you on the mat!