Svadhyaya #1

Again, I am embarking on my first post of the month a little late. For a few days I completely forgot it was October (or, Halloweenober!) and when I realized I was due for a new intention, I had some trouble figuring out exactly what that was. This month’s focus is Svadhyaya, or self-study, which is the 2nd of the three legs in the “schematic practice of yoga”. Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, the spiritual head of the Himalayan Institute, offers a beautiful translation of Sutra 2.1 here, in which he explains,

“Svadhyaya is loosely translated as“self-study.” This conjures up the notion of studying without a teacher and is a totally erroneous understanding of this term. According to the Yoga Sutra and the commentator Vyasa, svadhyaya means to study oneself by the means of practicing sacred mantras and reflecting on moksha shastra, the scriptures devoted exclusively to the dynamics of ultimate freedom.”

If it is possible to have a favorite Niyama, Svadhyaya might be mine. I LOVE the ritual of studying and learning, and (once I commit to it) I can easily get lost a captivating text or any of the essential yoga books, especially the Bhagavad Gita and the Yoga Sutras. I pride myself on being an “eternal student” (hello grad school!). Yet here I am today, still struggling to find a specific intention for the month. How can I obviously and measurably practice Svadyaya? What does self-study look like? Well, just as Panditji says, through mantra and moksha shastra.

  • Mantra: Check. I was given a mantra by Rolf Sovik, the President and Spiritual Director of the Himalayan Institute, who also offers a thorough and lovely explanation of Svadhyaya here. Receiving a mantra is a great honor and a ritual that, at the time, I did not grasp its importance and sacred nature. I now practice my mantra when I meditate, so for this month I will simply re-commit to my daily mediation and mantra japa practice from last month (which, I must say was mostly successful, but promptly fell again by the wayside come October).
  • Moksha Shastra: My bookshelves are filled with some of these sacred yogic texts, and they all have a similar story. I excitedly buy them, bring them home with the highest intention of diving into them and diligently reading on a daily basis, which lasts about a week, if that. These beautiful books are patiently collecting dust directly to my right as I type this post, a symbolic reminder that it is time to pull them out and shake off their dust. For the month of October, I will commit to reading SOMETHING from SOME text every day. It may be one Sutra, it maybe a chapter in a book on Ayurvedic healing. Point being, I know that I FEEL better when I am consistently reading those words, and I have them literally at my fingertips, so there is no excuse.

So that’s it. Seemingly easy, but as we all know, sometimes the most simple practices are the hardest ones to fit in. Reciting a mantra or reading a book are actions that can fill 5 minutes or a few hours. All I ask of myself (and you, if you’d like to join me) is to practice Svadhyaya everyday, whether it be a little or a lot. My guess is that we’ll all be amazed at what we learn through a little self-study.

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