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An Introduction to Svadhyaya

Articles by Christina Bernunzio

An Introduction to Svadhyaya, January 2021

There are 5 principles of observance within niyama, which is the second limb of yoga. The niyamas are:

Saucha (purity)
Santosa (contentment)
Tapas (willpower, self-discipline, self-purification)
Svadhyaya (self-study)
Isvarapranidhana (the yoga of devotion)

This month at Paxson Yoga Center we are focused on self-study, Svadhyaya. In Light on Life, B.K.S. Iyengar tells us that “you do not need to seek freedom in some distant land, for it exists within your own body, heart, mind, and soul. Illuminated emancipation, freedom, unalloyed and untainted bliss await you, but you must choose to embark on the Inward Journey to discover it.”

This journey includes reading scriptures and being taught by a “wise master or guru,” as well as by practicing asanas and pranayama. This is not the path taken by all practitioners, and certainly each individual’s journey is unique.

An asana practice is truly your own within the physical body. We can learn to see within, especially when we close our eyes. It is very helpful to have a trusted teacher or teachers to help guide us along the path of self discovery. We can explore mentorship, teachings, modern texts, and media, as well as historical scripture in order to help ourselves look inward to learn to know thyself.

As we change, we develop and we evolve, coming to understand ourselves through practice. In that sense, each morning you awaken with a new internal adventure to embark on. Yoga can be a lifelong practice and the possibilities for expansion can be perceived as limitless. Perhaps a year from now Svadhyaya will mean something entirely different to you, and yet again a decade later.

Ways to explore Svadhyaya in your personal practice:
1) Close your eyes, vision dominates your senses by about 70%
2) Read about Svadhyaya
3) Stick with the practice, the first years are the hardest

Recommended reading:
Books by B.K.S. Iyengar:
Light on Yoga
Light on Life
The Tree of Yoga

The Heart of Yoga by T.K.V. Desikachar
Living Your Yoga by Judith Lasater, Ph.D., P.T.


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