We continue our New Year’s journey of the eight limbs of yoga still exploring the Niymamas.
The fourth Niyama, svadhyaya – self-study comes from the Sanskrit sva or self and adhyaya or study. Anything that you do to learn more about yourself is considered svadyaya. 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.
As we do some self reflection we may discover why we repeat some behaviors that are not productive, we possibly discover things that bring us much joy that we have buried under the routines of daily life. Through the consistence practice of svadyaya we begin to contemplate search for meaning, perhaps recalibrating our actions and aspirations and interactions as we do so.
For more on this topic perhaps check out this article from Yoga Sanctuary:
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
Sometimes as I think about yoga and all of self reflection and work that we do around that, I sometimes stop and say wow, is this all too much navel gazing? Then I remind myself, yet again, about the purpose of yoga. Remember 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.
As I mentioned at the beginning of the year when we started this exploration, taken as a whole, the 8 limbs outlined in the Yoga Sutras, serve as a guidebook for a life lived with both ethical and moral behavior as well as self-discipline.
Lao Tzu, remember him, the guy that around 500 BC started Taoism, said,
“Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.”
Nurturing with Food – Cornbread
Maybe you made the chili recipe last week? Maybe you thought, I will wait till next week for the cornbread recipe to go along with it! This cornbread pairs well with chili and many other savory dishes; is also great with a cup of coffee with jam, honey your choice of butter. Cooks perfectly in a pie plate but if you have a small cast iron skillet that would work great as well. I did use an egg but you could use one of the various substitutes.
See you on the mat!