October. Our first full month of Fall. On our exploratory journey we now reach Svadhyaya, the fourth Niyama, or ethical observance of yoga. Self-study. Please see below after this month's News!
This month by invitation I will be assisting Amy Weintraub when she returns to Yogaville to offer a weekend workshop: LifeForce Yoga to Manage Your Mood: Depression and Anxiety. The workshop will take place from October 14-16 and will be held at the Yogaville Satchidananda Ashram in Buckingham, VA. I’m really excited to be returning to Yogaville! It is a peaceful place nestled on the banks of the James River--each time I visit I feel recharged and renewed. For more information on how you can join this training, click here.
A few weeks ago I also launched my first issue of a quarterly newsletter. You can find it on the blog sidebar here if you didn't get a chance to check it out! In the first issue I reflected on the transformational power of healing & my own path of discovery in yoga that has drawn me to yoga therapy. I'm looking forward to exploring themes of contentment, space, and self-care in future issues. I'd love this quarterly newsletter to prompt reflection and offer support for your own personal journey; if there are topics you would enjoy or features you would like to see, please let me know!
We have reached Svadhyaya – the fourth niyama or ethical observance yoga. In Sanskrit its meaning is self-study. In many respects it is the discovery of who we truly are. And it is a path to healing.
If we trace our exploratory journey together back to February, we found ourselves exploring what makes up our truth. We examined how in yoga there is a belief that we are made of several layers or sheaths that include our physical, emotional/energetic,and mental "selves," as well as two additional layers. These additional layers are where the wisdom of our intellect resides--as an objective witness within--as well as a layer of bliss, which is unlocked in the silence and where we can connect to the essence of who we really are.
Essentially, Svadhyaya is opening ourselves to the observations of our inner witness.
Just what sort of observations are we talking about? Well . . .
In Deborah Adele’s book, The Yamas and Niyamas: Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice, she describes this process of self-study. When we step away internally from our ego selves, we begin to observe the way our thoughts lead to projections about our world. Adele explains how early conditioning, as well as reactions to life experiences help form our ego identity. And, how we seek to justify ourselves and blame others in situations where disharmony arises.
Svadhyaya invites us to look at disharmony and open ourselves to understanding the roots that create our personal reactions and projections. In describing this process Adele says we “unpack belief systems of ‘shoulds,’ ‘musts’ and ‘wrong and right’” and “not shut the unpleasant parts of ourselves away, but carry them with kindness and compassion . . ..”
This, by no means, is always an easy process.
In September, as part of my yoga therapy certification program, my fellow tribe of students and I began a year-long introspective process. The idea is that each week we will follow Adele’s guidance and explore a different aspect of ourselves in order to better understand our own world projections. So far, following Adele's exploratory questions for the yamas Ahimsa (non-harm), we have (1) practiced courage by facing fears, (2) guarded our balance by listening to messages from our bodies, (3) observed how we run interference in other's lives, and (4) allowed ourselves to welcome a sense of being complete, just as we are.
With Svadhyaya, Adele shares that as we examine our own belief systems, “strong and painful emotions” can be released that are often “related to memories that we have unconsciously used to structure our reality.” It is necessary to “grow our ability to witness.” She further states:
The witness is our ability to watch ourselves act and respond. It is our ability to watch our thoughts and our emotional disturbances. This ability is what gives us clues into our matrix of belief systems. It is how we know ourselves and the stories that run us. The witness is our ability to watch the ego rather than identify with it. The profoundness of this watching is that we begin to know ourselves as something different than who we through we were. It is this ability to watch that begins to bring healing to our lives.
From my own introspective journey this past month, I can attest to noticing patterns, seeing projections, and unpacking layers of personal belief systems rooted in the ego--all of which impact my daily decisions and ways of being. And, despite the discomfort that has come from allowing this witnessing process to unfold, I can feel healing and growth happening within. Why?
I can feel it because of the linkage between "our tissues" and "our issues."
In yoga trainings the phrase "our issues are in our tissues" always gets a good chuckle from the audience. I think that is because we recognize the truth in it when we acknowledge held stress, tension, tightness and pain in our body. Paying attention to our patterns and projections informs us and this enhanced awareness opens to door to exploring different choices that can better serve ourselves. We can notice physical reactions, like bracing within the body or holding of the breath, that arise in response in various situations and ego-centric belief systems and emotions. We might see how we push ourselves beyond our limit for the day rather than listen to our body’s signals and whispers of wisdom. And we can begin to Let. This. Go.
Our tissues can begin to let go of our issues. And we can discover, watch unfold, and feel more ease within.
Learning to cultivate our inner witness, unpack our beliefs and see our projections of “shoulds” and “oughts” allows us to make choices that honor ourselves--choices that let us set the ego aside. We can relieve ourselves of the stress that projections create in the layers of our being. And let healing.
This month, may you practice Svadhyaya, cultivate your inner compassionate witness, and find greater peace.
With light and love,
Blog Archives including Heart Tree Yoga's Yamas and Niyamas Study from January-December 2016 and seasonal newsletters.