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Natural Awakenings Tucson

Know Thy Self: Grow Personally and Spiritually through Self-Study

Aug 31, 2023 09:00AM ● By Naomi Greene
This is the time of year when many are involved in back-to-school activities—whether it’s their children, young adults or adults themselves going back. But there is one kind of study that we should all be making: Self-Study.
While this may sound like an egotistical endeavor, in yoga, Self-Study, or Svadhyaya, presents an opportunity to become more self-aware on many levels, and via various methods. Primarily, it means to get in touch with that inner divine spark—our higher Self. By getting in touch with that Self, we mature and grow spiritually and develop a better understanding, not only of ourselves, but also of others.
According to yoga, we are all on a journey of that self-discovery. Basically, it says we’re all going to get there—whether “there” is enlightenment, or union with God. Svadhyaya is part of the Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the eight limbs of yoga. It falls under the observances, the things we ought to do. These observances have three levels—physical, verbal and intellectual.
The physical level of Self-Study points out that finding and reading sacred texts, for example, involves the body as well as the mind. In yoga practice, participants are encouraged to scan the body for posture alignment and afterwards, for what feels stretched. Returning to a neutral position, we scan for what our body is telling us about what we just did.
On the verbal level, the sutras suggest reading some of the sacred texts aloud to ourselves. The verbal level could also involve chanting of mantras.
Intellectual Self-Study may include chanting of the sacred sound “om” or any other sacred song or mantra, then attuning to the feeling state that the chanting evokes.
Self-Study can also begin with meditation. In yoga, there is a technique known as “tarka” meditation, or reflection. This can be done at the end of the day by sitting quietly and performing a reflection on the most important thought or event of the day, and how we reacted. As part of that, we can journal about it.
There is also a life tarka, where we reflect on the different stages of our life—the earliest memory, the most important events at different stages of our life, doing so without judgement, and also journaling about them. These are all very important as we try to find harmony and balance in life.
As we develop self-awareness, there is a realization that Self-Study is also a 24/7 endeavor, a moment-by-moment level, not something that is done only during meditation. We need to be our own watchers, or witnesses to our daily lives and thoughts. For example, what are we thinking as we’re waiting in a line or washing dishes? Where is our mind? If you’re like most people, our mind or thoughts are elsewhere following either concerns, fears or desires.
Self-Study can involve something as simple as watching the breath. How do you breathe? Do you use both nostrils? Does it flow evenly on both sides? Do you use full breaths using the diaphragm? If we start by paying attention to the breath throughout the day, maybe we can also follow our emotions and thoughts.
If you think about it, the breath is linked to every emotion we’ve ever experienced. When we’re angry, we get all huffy and the breath is sharp and harsh. Sad or weepy, we may sob. Laughter employs quick exhalations—ha, ha, ha. So, if we are aware of what our breath is doing at any given moment, we can “catch it”, change it, and maybe even change our mood. Life can be balanced, breath by breath.
Finally, there is the journey to the inner Self, the higher Self—the most important journey. As we meditate and go deeper, there is the realization that this inner Self is also part of the bigger cosmic Self—the Atma. There’s a state of mind where we realize we’re connected to all life, and to everything. That every living thing has the Self at its core. This is one aspect of what is meant by Self-Realization.
So, find yourself some new pens and clean, new notebooks, and begin your own journey. This is your own individual classroom, the beginning of Self-Study, and the beginning of Self-Awareness.

Naomi Greene is a freelance writer and yoga teacher at The Yoga Connection, Tucson’s only nonprofit yoga center and school. Connect at 520-323-1222 or [email protected].

The Yoga Connection - 3929 E Pima Tucson AZ

The Yoga Connection - 3929 E Pima, Tucson, AZ

The Yoga Connection is a non-profit 501(c)3 serving the Tucson Community for more than 30 years. The center is dedicated to serving all who seek to learn Hatha Yoga, meditation or the Kr... Read More »