Svadhaya is the Sanskrit word that literally means “self-study”. It’s part of the Niyamas in the tradition of yoga. The Niyamas are the laws of personal observance in the eight stages of yoga. Svadhaya is one part of a collection of laws and practices that are embodied through the Niyamas. Believe it or not, yoga is more than poses!
As a musician, self-study has been part of my life since I was four years old. However, I don’t know if I would describe it as Svadhaya until much later in my journey. Later like, a good twenty years later.
For most of my existence self-study was a painful scalpel I carved into myself as a musician and person. I had an unyielding ability to stare at my craft, find tiny imperfections and shift them toward excellence. The painful scalpel was largely created and stoked because I connected every blemish or “misstep” as a reflection of who I was as a person.
This painful scalpel was always with me. It began in music and cut into every other part of my life and being. Truly cut. It was a powerful and incomplete force.
Through my path of yoga and mindfulness, I was able to rebirth my self-study to be true Svadhaya. It’s love-based. It’s soul-based. Now, instead of a painful scalpel, I have a loving wide tooth comb everywhere I go. Similar to the one I use for my curly hair post shower!
I can pull it through, experience knots or kinks, and unfold them with care. I can look at myself, see her, love her and notice behaviors and ways of being separate from my worth. Svadhaya allows and requires loving space. Space for my real human self and space to untangle and expand.
Svadhaya is the practice and gift of looking within. It can apply to a craft, like music, and it’s more holistic than that too. It begs the question, who am I? And, what’s going on with me? Then it’s the bravest part of all - the courage to actually look within and see the answer.
I experience Svadhaya and mindfulness similarly because they both are in the seat of the observer. The only difference to me is that Svadhaya is specific to self-study and mindfulness is sitting in the observer seat in every aspect of life.
The practice of Svadhaya can seem far out of reach or “pie in the sky” in the challenges of day to day life in our modern world. You may very well be thinking, “Sounds great, but Adrienne I don’t have time for Svadhaya!” or “Sounds awesome, but do you know what it’s like to have kids?!”
Something I’m very passionate about is bringing these ideas down to earth for all to access in their own way. It doesn’t need to be “pie in the sky”, rather it can blend into daily life in our modern world. It doesn’t need to be an hour long meditation twice a day, it can be a simple flip in thinking, five deep breaths or thirty second embodiment reset.
In fact, in a society fueled largely by fear and dominant culture conditioning, the principles of yoga can be the antidote you’ve been looking for. It could very well be your modern medicine.
Yoga is for everyone and shows up in a unique way for all. It recently showed up in a big way for me through an unlikely character: Sodastream. Of course, like all great learnings appear, let me tell you a story.
I recently went on an extended trip to visit my family for the first time since before the pandemic. It was a trip out to beautiful Vermont and I was infused in nature and non-city air. Most beautiful and meaningful of all, I was enveloped in daily hugs and quality time with my people. It was amazing.
Something you may not know about me is that I am obsessed with bubble water. I drink a ton of La Croix. I would say, I drink three or four cans a day. Lime is my flavor. I am also obsessed with hydration. So a few years ago I thought, “Aha! La Croix! This will be my fun way to stay hydrated!”
Within the first few days of staying with my family, I came to a realization about my La Croix consumption. It was a lot more than I had previously realized. Within the first week a trip to the recycling center was needed because I had filled it up with all of my cans!
Upon immediately becoming an integral part of the Vermont recycling system, I noticed that they had it very much together in a way that my city doesn’t. Chicago is infamous for not really recycling at all. The system makes it hard to recycle here so many people just don’t. I once saw a garbage truck pull up in my alley and dump all of the recycling and garbage bins in the truck together.
While I was crushing La Croix and noticing the recycling system juxtaposition, my family was using their Sodastream. I had heard of it once in a podcast and after that it had left my mind. I saw them using it and they loved it! They also were creating zero waste or need for recycling as they used it. They were also getting the exact benefit and result I was seeking - an unending supply of bubble water.
Nothing like a change in environment and company to call upon Svadhaya! I said, “That’s interesting”. I sat in the observer seat and pulled out my loving wide tooth comb.
What I discovered as I looked within was a disconnect. I saw a discord between my values and my behavior.
I am someone who loves Mother Earth and really value taking good care of her. And yet, my behavior reflected the opposite. This was amplified as I live in a place where recycling isn’t valued in our system like I believe it should be. My behavior was very clearly part of the problem and not a part of the solution.
Furthermore, I had right before my eyes a pathway to embody my values, snap my behavior into alignment and receive all the bubbly water I could ever want!
Svadhaya allowed me to easily notice and shift without reprimanding myself. I had the opportunity to shift into embodiment and self-love by keeping integrity with who I want to be. All through the unlikely character of Sodastream!
The final part of Svadhaya is taking action on what is seen and known through self-study. It’s the Maya Angelou quote in real time: “When you know better, you do better.” This is a step that many yogis skip.
So what did I do upon my arrival back home? I got a Sodastream! Snap! Back into alignment. Through Svadhaya I was able to realign my values and behavior. Let me tell you, this feels great.
My first trip to the grocery store, my body went on autopilot to the La Croix section. My hand even went down to pick up a twelve pack. Then, boom! My body and mind remembered. “We don’t do that anymore”. In this simple practice, I had shifted my identity.
I love my Sodastream. It’s more fun than La Croix. It’s more interactive! It came in my favorite color! And most of all, each time I use it, I’m actually being who I want to be. I’m part of the solution and loving Mother Earth one bubbly swig at a time.
Svadhaya shows up in all parts of life in profound ways if it is simply invited. It’s an openness and willingness to look within, to self-study, known the true self and then based on what is revealed, take loving action toward the highest expression of that beautiful self.
It’s part of daily life, even down to bubble water!
What’s your version of bubby water?
Is there a La Croix in your life that can be replaced with a Sodastream?
What would it be like to have a loving comb instead of painful scalpel to figure it out?
How do you look within? What is your Svadhaya?
The practice of Svadhaya is a huge part of how I support my clients through Mindful Music lessons and 1:1 coaching. If you'd like to dive more into this practice and learn about how to work with me, please reach out to me here. I would love to support you on your journey!
To be ourselves, we must know ourselves.
Bring that pie down from the sky.
Live it in your world today
Within you is a deep reservoir of love and truth.
Are you willing to see it so you can be it?
This is not an ad for Sodastream.
This is a shameless plug for the power that exists within you.
In love, Svadhaya and bubbly water forever,