Going Deep - Svadhyaya
Yoga can be an extraordinary tool for bringing into focus and then harnessing the fundamental energies and themes of one’s life experience. Whether we like it or not the clarity revealed while practicing is not limited to the time spent on the mat. In fact, the longer we practice the more we discover our yoga is permeating and effecting all aspects of our life – from the food we choose to eat, right up to our concept of god. This is a “good” thing right…because we are “growing”? Ultimately I believe the process of self examination we undertake by consistently returning to our mat day after day, season after season, year after year is very productive and part of evolving spiritually. However, the process certainly doesn't always feel good – nor should it necessarily. Whether you are sitting quietly in meditation or vigorously projecting yourself through the primary series, yoga acts as a mirror. If we are practicing mindfully then yoga directly reflects back to us our mental, emotional and physical state. If we are agitated then the agitation undoubtedly shows up in our practice. If we are moving through a period of grief in our life, then the heaviness of the grief may present itself to us as we meditate. If we are feeling unfettered or successful then our asana practice may feel equally light and free. Any time you make the effort to see yourself clearly there is the possibility that you will see/experience/discover something uncomfortable. If you practice yoga long enough you will find awkward periods, sad periods, strong periods… The 90 minutes spent on the mat is like concentrated me time – time to decompress. It is a bit naive to believe that the practice is only going to reveal our physical tangles.This idea of self-exploration or self-study is know as Svadhyaya and is one of the Niyamas (the second limb of Ashtanga yoga relating to internal discipline). I was trained to see yoga in general as a tool for gaining knowledge of the self. In my own life I have found when I consciously engage in Svadhyaya and own it as part of my practice, the opportunity for transformation is amplified. One of the incredible powers of Svadhyaya is its power to reveal the story lines we use to perpetuate our own inner drama. For example believing we are too old, weak, inflexible, overweight, poor, etc., to execute this challenging practice. When the story lines finally drop away (when we stick around long enough and are consistent in our practice) we discover the ability to be was there all along!