Wow! The first month of a new decade is practically over! January is one of my favorite times of the year, because I (like many of you) spend time practicing the next niyama in our Niyamas Series: svādhyāya, or self-reflection. I appreciate how this practice is a key component of the niyamas, the second limb of the 8 Limbs of Yoga. (If you are new to my 5-Part Niyamas Series I invite you to start with Part 1 on the practice of saucha, purity. In this 5-part series we delve into each of the 5 practices within the niyamas, which are personal practices that teach us to respect ourselves on every level: body, mind and spirit.) For those who have previously joined me on this exploration, let’s do some self-reflection together!
DEFINITION OF SVĀDHYĀYA
This niyama is about self-reflection and exploration. It is the practice of understanding who you are through inner reflection, reading, meditation, attending workshops and other programs that give us insight into ourselves.
Through svādhyāya we are able to come to the realization that we are inherently good. Our dilemma is that sometimes we may forget this which can lead us down a path of sadness, unfulfillment, anxiety or other negative roads. If we make self-reflection a periodic ritual it can help to remind us of our greatness.
Svādhyāya also encourages us to identify aspects of ourselves that we can improve upon. How can we be more kind to ourselves and others (ahimsā), more truthful (satya) or more committed (tapas)? Like all the other 8 Limbs of Yoga, this is a consistent practice and part of a life-long journey.
SELF-REFLECTION IS WHAT BROUGHT ME TO THE PRACTICE OF YOGA
As a seasoned explorer of self-development, I have tried many different types of practices. My original desire for this exploration came from a need to resolve childhood challenges. Like many of us, my upbringing had a few bumps in the road. My parents (who were kids when then had me) divorced when I was two, my mother had three more unhealthy marriages and divorces by the time I was 17 (sorry Mom) and I had hardly any contact with my father until I was 30. As you can imagine, I had developed some negative views on men, marriage, and my own worthiness.
Fortunately, my mother was very open to and supportive of self-help practices and, with her guidance, I started my quest to heal my insecurities and feelings of lack. I started seeing a counselor in my early 20’s, read several self-help books and attended many personal development workshops. All of these modalities helped me, but it wasn’t until I found yoga that I really experienced a paradigm shift. All my problems weren’t solved after my first āsana class, but as I continued with this practice, I began to feel more grounded and secure---feelings I had never felt before. As I dove deeper into the philosophy of yoga, including the 8 Limbs of Yoga, the walls I had built up around me started to erode and my life began to change for the better. I became more confident and less critical of myself and I was clearer about what was truly important to me. This clarity helped direct my actions towards things I really wanted in my life. I whole-heartedly believe yoga helped me to be more open and vulnerable in order to allow someone to come into my life. I’m excited to report my husband and I will be celebrating our 7th year wedding anniversary next week!
Because I regularly practice the 8 Limbs of Yoga (and it certainly helps that I married an AMAZING man), my happiness level is more consistent than ever. Yes, I have my down times, but I now have the tools to help me bounce back and to keep on growing, learning and exploring!
HOW TO PRACTICE SVĀDHYĀYA
To me, svādhyāya is a key to self-care and I encourage everyone to practice it on a regular basis. Periodically checking in with yourself is a method to help you stay on track to being healthy and happy. So, give it a try right now! Here are a few steps to take to get started:
Make Time for Yourself to Reflect
Set aside some quality time just for you. Can you make this a ritual? Maybe it’s a couple of hours at the beginning of each month or half a day each quarter, or whatever speaks to you. Personally, I would love to attend a weekend retreat in some beautiful setting a couple of times a year to practice svādhyāya! (I thought if I’d “say this out loud” it could manifest! 😊)
During your self-reflection, check in with how you feel about yourself and your life. What’s working and what might need to change. This is a great time to learn and grow. Research books to read, workshops or classes to attend, trips to take---all focused on your self-development. Put together a plan and commit to it, commit to yourself.
Create a Self-Development Plan
The goal is to spend time focusing on YOU! It’s a time to check in with how you feel, what’s working and what you may want to change. I recommend kicking off this exploration with a 15-30 minute meditation to relax you and clear your mind before you head into your practice of self-reflection. Dive into this practice with a sense of wonder and exploration as well as an attitude of loving compassion towards yourself.
There are so many ways to go about this and there is an abundant amount of resources out there for you. To give you a few ideas, below I’ve listed several resources that I have experimented with in the past. I challenge you to select 1-3 (or all of them!) and commit to learning more about yourself. Alternatively, has there been something that you’ve been wanting to try, but just haven’t pulled the trigger yet? Well….JUST DO IT!
- Private Yoga & Meditation Instruction – I highly recommend Sarah Clark with Interconnected Yoga
- Guided Meditations – I use Insight Timer
- Michael Stone Teachings – an excellent resource for books, podcasts, guided meditations, articles
- Counseling – individual or family
- Emotionally Focused Therapy Couples Counseling developed by Dr. Sue Johnson
- EMDR Therapy – Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is a form of psychotherapy to help relieve trauma and stress
- Landmark Forum & The Advanced Course – personal growth workshops
- Energy Clearing
- Astrological Readings by Leslie McGuirk
- Jyotish Readings by Laura Plumb
- The Yoga-Sūtra of Patañjali by Chip Hartranft
- Yoga for a World Out of Balance by Michael Stone
- The Yamas & Niyamas by Deborah Adele
- The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
- Power of Intention by Dr. Wayne Dyer
- Ask and It Is Given by Ester and Jerry Hicks
- Dying to Be Me by Anita Moorjani
- Becoming Supernatural by Dr. Joe Dispenza
All of these resources have had positive effects on my personal growth. Please note that I am not receiving any payments from any of the resources I listed above. I’m just so grateful for each and every person, book and experience I have had and want to share this wonderfulness with you.
I wish you all the best with your endeavor to commit to making positive changes in your life. My blog on the fifth and final niyama will be out soon! Namaste.