When it comes to designing a yoga practice, it’s easier to picture doing seated forward bends and downward dogs than engaging with the yamas and niyamas (the first two rungs on the ladder of classical yoga)
Postures fit solidly into a daily schedule and have beginnings, middles, and ends. But yogic attitudes such as non-harming and contentment are more contemplative in nature and require a measure of self-examination. As a result, they tend to fall off our practice map.
Suppose, for example, that a fellow student in your yoga class turns to you and says, “I’m working on the fourth niyama. Do you have any suggestions for me? I could sure use some help.” Would you have advice to offer?
If you think you might be stumped, perhaps it’s time to dig a little deeper into the underpinnings of yoga, where classroom work merges with philosophy, and the point of practice is to explore the nature of yoga itself. The fourth niyama is a perfect place to begin.
That mystery niyama? It’s svadhyaya—“self-study,” although the translation is a bit awkward. This Sanskrit word, like many, has a richer history than can easily be captured in one or two English words. Even within the Yoga Sutra (the bible of yoga, so to speak) the term svadhyaya picks up increasingly richer meaning as it winds its way through the first two chapters.
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”—to study one’s own self.
By Rolf Sovik of the Himalayan Institute
Read more of the complete article here: Yoga International