Have you ever looked in the mirror and thought “who is that person”? Beyond the name and job title, when we look deep below the surface, right into the soul, who are we really? This is what Svadhyaya is all about. It is the study of our self.
Do you find yourself putting on masks? Do you behave differently with your mates to how you behave with work colleagues and differently yet again with family? Are your masks hiding the “true you”?
If you dig deep enough, you will discover a beautiful loving soul within yourself. So why do we hide our true essence behind our masks?
We create protective layers (masks, or defensive walls) to hide our vulnerabilities. The more we have been hurt, the higher the walls we build – and we have all been hurt.
Through yoga we learn to repair our hurt. In our physical practice of asana, we learn to tune into and care for our bodies. With the philosophies of yoga, as exemplified by the Yamas and Niyamas, we learn to tune into and care for our souls. We release ourselves from negative thoughts and attitudes (Aparigraha). We channel our energies more wisely (Brahmacharya). We learn to appreciate every moment (Santosha). Most importantly, first and foremost, we do all of this with the kindness of Ahimsa. Before we confront our true self with the honesty of Satya and the diligence of Tapas, we need Ahimsa. We can be our own worst critic, and this is unfair to our self. No one likes to be hurt and we will hide our true self if we fear being hurt. Thus, we lay our foundations first with Ahimsa and then build upon this with the other Yamas and Niyamas. Our progress through the Yamas and Niyamas prepares us for Svadhyaya and provides the building blocks for a new emotional resilience that is both stronger and kinder than the walls behind which hides our true essence.
Through Svadhyaya, our self-discovery, we create doorways in our walls through which we can enter and see our true essence; and we build windows to let our light shine out. And as our understanding improves and our confidence grows, the doors remain open longer, our light shines more brightly and the walls begin to fade.
“Study thy self, discover the divine”