Self-Study (Svadyaya) as Healing

By BijaB

Self-study comes from personal experience — knowing what your mind is doing, feeling what your body is feeling — every single day.

"Self-Study leads to awareness, communication, and union with spirit."

— Yoga Sutra, ch. 2 v. 44

These days, self-exploration typically is done in little, fragmented ways. For your body, you work out at the gym or do yoga. For your mind, you take a class, or you read a good book. For your personal development, you join a therapy group or see a counselor. You keep checking out all the different options, reading self-help books on relationships, or trying to accumulate a variety of techniques to help you learn about the different parts of who you are. (I know all about this because I have done all of these things.)

But none of these alone seems to help you as much as you think it does. That's because "the study of the self" needs an integral approach and doesn't come from simply reading a book, listening to a lecture, or taking a kickboxing class.

Self-study comes from personal experience — knowing what your mind is doing, feeling what your body is feeling — every single day. Self-study is when you examine what is inside you. It's when you return to yourself and reveal yourself to yourself. In yoga, there are at least four developmental stages to this process. Following is a framework for studying yourself and for carrying you through the day.

A Framework for Self-Study

The first step involves:

  • recognition
  • attention
  • knowledge

Accurately assess your present situation and condition. Know where you are so that you can know where you are going. Before you make any exercise or practice, always take a few minutes to recognize the place from which you start. You can also do this in the morning before you start your day. Each day will be entirely different, because you will be different.

The second step involves:

  • regulation
  • willingness
  • practice

Determine your direction and clarify what steps you need to take in order to get where you are going. This observation process becomes the platform for the path you are willing to take. Practice is a plan of action.

The third step involves:

  • reflection
  • discovery  
  • insight

Reflect and meditate on the effects of your experience. Discover and identify new things. Notice if you feel different stronger, happier, or more stable and adjust your actions accordingly.

The fourth step involves:

  • experience
  • integration
  • inspiration

Begin to integrate these experiences into the whole of your life. Work with yourself again. Inquire, test, study, and rediscover. This will make any practice you do more meaningful, deeper, and inspiring. Let it lead you on a lifelong path of self-discovery and wisdom.

Self-study is like exercising. It isn't a momentary excitement and it doesn't come with only one session. It has to be sustained. But the longer you do it and the deeper you go, the closer to yourself you get.

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