Practicing dynamic yoga regularly can make us feel stronger, more flexible, and more focussed. But if you delve deeper into the yoga philosophy, on which the physical practice is built, you’ll gain immeasurable insights into your Self.
One of the core yoga philosophy texts is Patanjali’s yoga sutras, which includes Yamas an Niyamas (personal observances or guidelines on how to live your life).
One of these niyamas is Svadhyaya which roughly translates as self-study or self contemplation. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra says: "Study thy self, discover the divine" II.44
Self study can be achieved through practicing yoga asana (poses), mantra (repeated sacred words), and mudras (meaningful hand gestures) that create a mindful focus both on and off the mat.
A mantra can be as simple as repeating the word ‘Om’. A mudra can be as simple as resting your right hand in the left palm. An asana can be as simple as sitting in Sukasana - an easy crossed legged pose.
Broadly speaking, svadhyaya refers to any activity wherein we quietly study ourselves and reflect upon our actions, thoughts, emotions, motivations, aspirations, desires and needs in pursuit of a deeper experience of our lives and our own selves.
Asana practice offers the perfect opportunity to explore svadhyaya. As you move in and out of each asana, be mindful of alignment and dristi (the gaze point on which you rest your eyes.) rather than just rushing and arriving into a pose haphazardly.
You could do this without any real engagement or awareness, carelessly going through the motions while your mind is a million miles away, or you could work towards staying present with each and every moment as it arises.
You could notice how the body responds to being aligned a certain way, observe physical sensations, watch how your mind reacts to what you’re doing with your body, experience any emotions that show up, and listen to the ebb and flow of your breath.