4th Niyama

4th niyama_Svadhyaya

The 4th niyama, Svadhyaya, is regarding self study.  The idea with studying the Self, is that we learn who and what we are NOT, to fully experience who we ARE.

Without being present in the moment or taking time to reflect on our experiences, our actions or choices are usually the result of unchecked patterns of behavior.

So many (if not all) of our actions, thoughts, and behaviors are based on samskaras (or deep ruts, neural patterns).  Take a moment to visualize a thick forest.  You are trying to navigate this forest through the brush, trees, bushes, the movement is slow, labored, physically challenging….then you see a worn path and as soon as you get on to that path….the walking is SOO much easier.  You are no longer working so hard to move and walk!  Samskaras are like that.  It’s easier for our brain and body to fall into the worn paths of our minds because it already knows how to do these things – EVEN, when it no longer serves the person we want to be.  Self Study involves blazing a new trail through the woods, which will most definitely involve some physical and emotional work to do it!

Does this sound hard?  I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t.  But, the better question to ask would be, “Is it worth it?”.  OH YES!

The next question, “How do I start?”.

First step is, study and notice your breath.  Set a few minutes aside every day for 2-3 weeks to observe your breath, and journal about what you notice.  Is it shallow, where do you feel the movement, is your inhale or exhale longer or are they even, do you wheeze, do you breathe in through your nose or mouth, and is there anything else you notice?  How does your breath make you feel….does breathing in different ways affect your body and your mind?  Just write about it…don’t overthink it.

Second step, study and notice your mind (thoughts).  Set aside a few minutes every day for a couple weeks after you have studied your breath.  When you notice where your thoughts go….how does it make you feel?  What thoughts keep coming up?  Is it difficult or easy for you to notice these thoughts?  Journal about what you find…and simply notice whatever arises without judgement.

Third step, move on to body scans through a yoga nidra or self guided practice.  Set aside time each day for a few weeks.  Scanning through all the different areas of the body to notice where you are holding tension and where you are naturally more relaxed.  As you gain awareness of all the muscles and joints of the body, you will start to notice these areas respond during your day to day activities.  Maybe you notice you clench your abdomen under stress….and then you notice stomach pains, constipation, or bloating.  Or maybe you can relate this to back pain?  Journal about what you notice, so you can start connecting the dots of your life.

There is so much more to self study, but this gives you an excellent starting point.  Remember, that you are worth it.  You are worth the effort to learn about yourself, so that you can develop the strength and awareness to move closer to who you want to be in this world.

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