I was really lucky this summer to take 6 weeks off from teaching yoga and to spend my time traveling, directing plays, teaching creative drama and movement workshops, spending time with family and friends, lots and lots of driving, and most importantly – being a yoga student again.
Now you may have noticed, but I have a pretty full teaching schedule. I teach at multiple locations and I try to offer a few community events and classes each month. And it’s possible I’ve even said this phrase to you in person, but I’ve scheduled myself into a corner. I filled up my dance card and because of that, it is really hard for me to make it to yoga classes myself.
This time last year, I was teaching morning, lunch time, and evening classes 5 days a week and usually doing 2 classes on Saturdays and private lessons when I could squeeze them in. Honestly it was too much. (I even wrote a blog about it here.) It was too much on my body and my spirit and that is a big reason why I reworked my class schedule to give myself a little more space and to focus on the projects and events that I am really passionate about. But on top of that, I also wanted to make more time to attend classes and workshops myself.
This summer taught me quite a lot, more than I even know yet I think. It also gave me the confidence and courage to continue to look inward and listen to my intuition on what I need. I know a huge part of that was getting to spend some time focusing on self-study and tuning into my personal practice and even allowing myself to have that space held for me by someone else.
My retreat in Amorgos was incredible. I mean not only was I spending my time on a Greek Island, but I was taking classes everyday, diving into my personal meditation practice, and spending my time surrounded my yogis of all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds. That week felt like such an incredible affirmation of all the lessons that have been brewing inside me for the past few years. It allowed me to really feel myself coming into my own and embracing my life exactly as it is. I am so grateful for that time, that confirmation, and that ease of energy. But of course, it doesn’t get to be where I stop. I have to take those lessons, the strength of spirit, and that love and carry it forward.
In the Yogic philosophy, svadhyaya is the 4th of the Niyamas, or internal practices.
To translate svadhyaya as “self-study” is, on the surface of things, quite precise. The first part of the word—sva—means “self.” The second part—dhyaya—is derived from the verb root dhyai, which means “to contemplate, to think on, to recollect, or to call to mind.” Thus, it works to translate dhyaya as “study”.
Svadhyaya—to study one’s own self.
Bhavani Maki says in her book, The Yogi’s Roadmap; Svadhyaya (self-study) is the necessity to review and evaluate our progress through self-observation and self-analysis. It is the effort to gain deeper understanding of our weaknesses and strengths, and to address what the fire of practice has bubbled up to the surface for our review. It empowers us to learn from ourselves, and harness our potential to gain limitless understanding. More than that, it is our ability to be independent in our self discipline, and to apply ourselves to that task. It is the awakening of the inner guru, and ultimately the awakening of pranja, the wisdom inherent within.
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra says: “Study thy self, discover the divine” II.44
Studying our habits on the yoga mat can go a long way towards recognizing our habits off the mat too. The way in which we practice yoga is actually very reflective of the way we practice life…. and a person’s physical yoga practice often reveals a lot more about them than they may think.
When we’re on the mat (and in the classroom), there’s nowhere else to hide. The daily distractions of phones, chores, emails, and TV are no longer there to take our minds away from ourselves. We actually have to pay attention. This can be a little intimidating at first, and a yoga practice can sometimes reveal more about where our problems are rather than how perfect we are – which as we know, is very good for destroying the ego and very hard to stomach at times.
Now of course a big piece of this is having a personal practice or home practice, and I whole-heartedly believe in the benefits of having a time and space that is totally your own, especially within your yoga practice.
But I also believe that yoga is about union and community. I believe that together we lift each other up and I know that the times I have felt most connected to my breath, had my deepest savasanas, or pushed myself further in asana have all been in a class.
So now that I have begun to change my schedule and make more time for myself, I hope to use it to continue on this path. To find workshops close by and to attend classes all over South East Texas. I know it will make me a better student, teacher and human. We have so many amazing teachers in this world, and I know that I can learn from each and every one of them.