December 19, 2011

Svadhyaya: Self and Study

Tonight in our final Standing Poses class session, of the yoga Advanced Studies Program, Gay White read portions of our papers out loud as we were in restorative poses. This was a wonderful way to listen and absorb the ideas of our classmates and to reflect on our own writings. Here is my paper.

Svadhyaya is the Niyama I am selecting to explore in relation to the Standing Poses class because it reflects my intention for participating in the Advanced Yoga Studies program. Through the practice of yoga it is my goal to develop a deeper understanding of both myself and of my community. According to B.K.S Iyengar, the meaning of Svadhyaya means self and study or education.

A statement Iyengar makes that resonates with me is, “When people meet for svadhyaya, the speaker and listener are of one mind and have mutual love and respect.” I take this to have two meanings. The first is that you are both teacher and student when learning about yourself. The second is that when you are learning from another, or providing instruction, you should have compassion for the other, and for yourself. This becomes a conversation that can at times be spoken instruction and other times a silent exploration of self.

This dynamic internal and external dialogue has taken place for me in this course because of the challenges of the poses and learning Sanskrit. Standing poses are some of the most difficult because they involve balance, often while rotating. This becomes a mind game at times, where you are both teacher and student, talking yourself into, and sometimes out of, being able to move into a pose.

The benefit of taking this class with a group of people and being instructed, is that we are creating a community of practice. The learning process is highly supported, allowing us to find balance both in our poses and in our student/teacher internal/external dialogues. We are here to support each other in finding balance.

I believe it is essential for us to struggle through the learning of both poses and Sanskrit. Adopting these new movement and language vocabularies are almost a right of passage that must be explored in order to advance our understanding of the Asanas, as well as understanding ourselves. It is not a simple journey.

As Iyengar states, “Philology is not a language but the science of languages…Yoga is not a religion by itself. It is the science of religions, the study of which will enable sadhaka the better to appreciate his own faith.” As students we are on that same journey in the Advanced Studies Program. We are following the path of learning and adopting new movements, new understanding and new languages. At the same time we are teaching and supporting each other as we build our community of practice.

Through this Standing Poses course I have found new understanding of myself. My strength has increased, my understanding of Yoga has improved, and my faith in my teaching and learning has developed. Instead of pushing away from a challenge, I embrace it and look to my peers and my instructor for deeper meaning. It is this combination of being student and teacher that allows me to understand how much there is to learn.