September brings a feeling of new beginnings, the closing of chapters and the start of a fresh term. It is a good time to take stock, reflect on your lifestyle and choices and ensure you are doing all you can to be the best version of yourself possible.
Life can offer increasing challenges, so be certain to schedule regular time for you, switching off from the outside world and turning your focus inwards. You can learn a great deal about life and yourself through introspection, allowing you to turn up more fully for others and for your work and focus. Yoga practice is a time when all else falls away, a time of self discipline, introspection and self study. Some of the greatest delights of your day can occur during such practice!
The term Svadhyaya literally means ‘one’s own reading’ or ‘self-study’. It is the fourth Niyama of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and has the potential to deepen our yoga practice way beyond the mat. The word itself is made up of Sva, meaning own, self, or the human soul, and Adhyaya, meaning lesson, lecture, or reading, and can imply the practice of studying scriptures, as well as a practice of studying the Self. By paying attention to, or ‘studying’ our ‘self’, we become more aware of the things we do that harm us, and also those which serve us and bring us closer to that process of ‘yoking’ or ‘uniting’ with the true Self.
Knowing what we’re doing in each moment requires us to pay attention, but asking the question “why am I doing this?” requires us to be aware and fully present, which is ‘paying attention’ on a whole other level. Questioning our actions is something we may often avoid, as it is usually a catalyst for change, and as humans we don’t often like change….
At the core or our Yoga practice is the work that we do to purify, reforge, and replace the inner patterns that in Sanskrit are called samskaras. Samskaras are the accumulated impressions—in scientific terms, the neuronal patterns—that create our character, our ways of thinking and acting, and our perspective on life. Samskara is a Sanskrit term, derived from two roots; sam meaning ‘well planned’ or ‘well thought out’, and kara meaning ‘the action under-taken.’ The word samskara can also be translated just the way it sounds in English: as “some scars.” Samskaras are patterns in our consciousness, creating our mental, emotional, and physical default settings.
Since samskaras can colour perceptions of self and others, in either a positive or negative way, the aim of introspective practices should be to seek out and strengthen certain samskaras while eliminating those which do not align with moral and ethical values and those which no longer serve.
“Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the Self” – The Bhagavad Gita