It’s a blustery day in the Seattle Area. Its windy, its wet, and it’s surprisingly warm. And I am still coming to grips with the fact that we are almost half-way through December. Don’t get me wrong, the fact that Winter Solstice is only 10 days away makes me incredibly happy. It’s just that I catch myself wondering…where did the time go?
I know I am not unique in this wondering. All of us at some point or another are struck by the fact that while time may seem to move incredibly slowly at one moment, most of us often have the feeling that time just keeps slipping away. Dates that seemed so far in the offing are suddenly upon us. Babies become children, children become adults, adults become seniors and each of us find ourselves wondering how did we end up here.
The focus of my classes this week have been on Svadhyaya, or self-study. It is the 4th of the Niyamas, or individual practices identified by Pantanjali (400 CE). This is an integral aspect of our yoga practice. Beyond getting the right alignment for a pose, or moving just so with the breath in a pose, there are also so many questions about our everyday practice. Which poses do we like and not like. Which poses do we avoid? Which poses make us feel powerful? Which bring us healing in times of suffering? Which poses make us mad or make us feel like crying or make us feel triumphant?
Svadyaya is also about the deeper stuff. Why do we feel a certain way in a pose? Do we always feel that way in that pose? What else is going on for us in that pose? Are there poses in which we feel nothing? How is it that putting our bodies in an asana can even elicit that emotional/intellectual response? Why do the asanas do that? Are we even aware of our thoughts and emotions while in any given asana? So, not only are we trying to become more aware of our breath and our movements on the mat, but we are also trying to engage more fully in the study of who we are in each moment, and in every breath.
And if you thought this was just about yoga… it’s not… or it is. It is not just about yoga, if yoga is something that only happens for you on a mat, in a studio, for about an 90 minutes a day. On the other hand, it is all about yoga if you have begun to notice that your yoga is moving with you beyond the mat. It kinda has the habit of doing that. Check out this link from Richard Freeman called Yoga Ruins Your Life, in which he talks about the permeability of yoga, as well as showcasing some very nice asanas guaranteed to make you ooo and ah.
Then these questions, this work of self-study really gets deep. On a daily basis, moment by moment, we begin to explore who we are, what makes us think and feel the way we do, and why. This is, I believe what we call the examined life – a life of self-study. This is a life that allows us to answer that question, Wow, how’d we get here? with something along the lines of ” I don’t quite know, but at least I was awake for some of it. ” Through Svadhyaya, we participate in the most important dialogue of all time; the dialogue that begins with ourselves; the dialogue that enables us to be more fully present in each moment.
Happy Holidays everyone. I hope the Season brings you much light and love. May the questions you ask continue to deepen and expand. Don’t let yourself get too attached to the answers, they will probably change (follow this link). Enjoy the journey and stay full of wonder.
Shalom & Namaste