Svadhyaya Part One: The Building Blocks of Study…..


Studying is the foundation of learning, growing, and evolving in every aspect of our lives.  Yet, do we really know what it means to study?  According to Webster’s New World Dictionary, to study is “the act or process of applying the mind so as to acquire knowledge or understanding.”  Study requires several steps.

  • Focus:  First, we must be able focus our attention.  Without careful attention, we will not know what is pertinent and what isn’t.
  • Observe:  Then, we observe, listen, or read.  This opens us to take in what we are putting our attention on.
  • Integrate:  After we receive the new information, we attempt to understand.  This is like digesting food—the knowledge needs to be broken down in ways we can integrate and assimilate into our mind.

  •  Reflect:  Once we take in this new information, we reflect on it. How does it apply to other knowledge we have?  What implications does this have in my life?  What does this reveal about me?
  •  Apply:  Lastly, new knowledge becomes fully embodied when we know how to apply it to situations, whether it’s on an exam, in a yoga pose, or when responding to others.  When we apply this new understanding to any given situation with skill, we know our studies have been fruitful.

Yogic philosophy also recognizes the value of studying.  The ancient yogis were scientists: they inquired into themselves and their experiences of the universe with tremendous depth and acuity.  As mentioned previously an essential part of yoga practice is the concept of Svadhyaya:  the “study the Self”.

According to TKV Desikachar, the word is composed of Sva, meaning “self” or “belonging to me,” and Adhyaya, meaning “inquiry” or “examination.”  Quite literally, Adhyaya refers to “getting close to something.”  Thus, the practice of Svadhyaya allows us to become closer to our true self through study and inquiry.

Written by Constance Habash and published on, 2009


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