As I reflect on the niyama of Svadyaya, it occurs to me that self-study is a fundamental part of yoga (and life in general) that is way too often overlooked. But the trouble is, reaching deep into our innermost layers is an integral part of how we can heal, learn about ourselves, and reveal truths that were previously unknown. Svadyaya requires us to contemplate what we have done in our lives and think about the life lessons that we have amassed through our experiences until this point. When we commit to svadyaya, we are committing to bettering ourselves in the most organic way possible, by only relying on us, our own being, as the teacher. Through challenges, tribulations, our strengths, our weaknesses, we are presented the unique opportunity to grow and learn from our mistakes and ultimately contemplate how and why we have done the things that have brought us to this point in our lives. Once we have built the connection within ourselves to truly learn how to reflect on our decisions and actions, then we can think more clearly and base our decisions on what is truly right.
In my opinion, svadyaya is truly the most important of the niyamas. How can you know yourself and truly be content in life if you have never practiced self-study? For me, it was an integral part in starting the healing process and moving forward with conquering my anxiety. It is a process that is definitely not always easy, sometimes grueling, but in the end it is worth it. Looking into the deepest layers of your being can be intimidating, meditating on your life, the decisions you have up until this point, and challenges you may face within yourself is never going to be a walk in the park. However, once I started figuring out triggers, thought patterns, and other self-sabotaging processes, I was able to better understand what it is that makes my panic attacks and anxious moments occur. Then, armed with that knowledge, I was able to look even deeper and learn different coping mechanisms. For me, one of the biggest tools I used in the maintenance of my anxiety was meditation. Really diving into myself and meditating on one thing each day. Maybe one day it was nervousness, the next, fear, the next, confidence. Meditating on one word or phrase and either giving myself the opportunity to banish it from my thoughts if it was negative, or praise it if it was positive, was crucial in my self-study process. It can also be the biggest challenge. For me, meditation doesn’t come easy. I have a wandering, inquisitive, complex mind and quieting it can prove to be challenging. But when I focus on one word or phrase, it doesn’t give me the opportunity let my mind meander. It gives me an end point and I know that if I just concentrate on that word, then I can be more in tune with my self. In a class, I would challenge my students use those moments in child’s pose or downward dog as a time to contemplate what is going on in their lives. Those times of still and silence can be great educators on what you need to do to change thought patterns and really look deeply into the self.