Swadayaya is one of five Niyamas which have to do with our personal restraints or our code of ethics relating to our body or our attitude.
When we practice Swadayaya both on and off our mats we are working to increase our self-knowledge. We can do this by observing our actions, thoughts and feelings. Swami Kripalu said, “The highest form of swadhyaya is a continual process of self-observation without judgement.” The word itself is made up of Sva, meaning own, self, or the human soul, and Adhyaya, meaning lesson, lecture, or reading, and can imply the practice of studying scriptures, as well as a practice of studying the Self. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra says: “Study thy self, discover the divine” II.44
If we apply the practice of Swadayaya to our modern-day lives and our current life-situations, ‘studying the scriptures’ does not strictly have to mean sitting down with a copy of The Bhagavad Gita; it might mean finding a book or a piece of writing that deepens your own yoga practice. Reading a book or articles online about yoga, attending a workshop or a training which helps you move closer towards ‘Self-realization’, is also a way of studying. By deepening your own knowledge, understanding and connection to yoga by continuing to read, inquire, and be curious about yoga off the mat, we cultivate our own practice of Swadayaya.
Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.
– Author Unknown
In practice can you try to observe and understand with a questioning and open mind? You might even consider asking yourself these questions at the end of your day:
- Do I take time to know myself?
- Do I study texts about my discipline to further my knowledge? Do I apply the texts to my life?
- Can I be objective in my self observation?
- Do I ask questions?
Try this exercise: Take a comfortable seat with your eyes closed. Ask yourself “Who am I?”. Keep repeating the question over and over watching your answer. You might answer the same way for a period of time but then the answer might shift. Try it over time for 1 minute, 3 minutes, 5 minutes and 10 minutes.