Learning about ourselves is a critical component of living yoga. Studying our authentic selves can be enlightening as well as challenging. Svadhyaya asks us to get to know and to accept ourselves.
"Who am I?" is a question we all ask at one time or another. Being mindful of our preferences, behaviors, likes and dislikes can help us see through the outer packaging of our physical being. Knowing ourselves is about seeing the work that needs to be done, doing it, and appreciating the progress along the way.
Personally, I love self-study. I love to read self-help books on anything going on in my life. I have learned a great deal about my own personality from some books on the Myers-Briggs personality types. Diet, communication, parenting, and aging have all been topics that I have studied through reading materials.
Meditation is another tool I have used for learning about myself. My favorite meditation is the Loving-Kindness or Metta meditation (see blog post on that topic for more information); I practice Metta when I am power walking, waiting in traffic or line, or during a seated meditation. Practicing love for another person gives us a clear picture of our feelings about others and ultimately, ourselves. I was told once that when someone is critical of me it really says more about that other person than it does about me. Keeping this in mind, when I have critical thoughts about others I ask "what's going on in me that is bringing about this feeling or thought?"
Holding myself accountable for my own feelings has been an incredibly freeing practice. Recognizing that nobody else "makes me mad," for instance, has been an eye-opener. I am responsible for my own emotions. Knowing that I can be mad and not blame someone else puts feelings in a whole new light. Being angry isn't a bad thing. Feeling sad isn't something I should avoid. Today, I try to lean into my feelings to see what's behind them and keep in mind that they do not define me.
Practicing yoga has taught me a lot about who I am. I am a determined, strong, and resilient human. While I do not always see those qualities in myself, when I look back at my physical yoga practice I do. I fall out of postures. And then I try again, and again, and again. I can see change and growth happening before my eyes, which gives me evidence of these traits as being a part of me. Yoga helps me to quiet my mind, allowing me to just enjoy being me without the busy-ness of life directing my thoughts.
Reading books, meditation, accountability, and yoga have all been tools that have helped me to get to know myself. These are not the only avenues for self-study, and each person should experiment with what works best for him/her. The important thing is to ask yourself "Who am I?" and "Who do I want to be?"