We all have things we’d like to improve about ourselves. There are the usual self improvement projects like losing weight and exercising more, but there are also much more meaningful things most of us want to work on in our lives like patience, compassion, connection and deeper understanding.
To make those more meaningful types of changes in our lives we must first be able to see, with great clarity, the habitual ways we react and behave when there is struggle and challenge in our lives. This is why self reflection is a very important part of any yoga practice. It is only through paying attention to our thoughts and actions, our motivations and patterns of behavior that we can begin to gain clairty about who we really are.
The sanskrit word for self reflection is svadhyaya and it is one leg of the three-fold practice known as Kriya Yoga, the yoga of action, as outlined in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
Svadhyaya calls for us to sit in meditation. We sit in quiet and stillness and allow thoughts and feelings to come and go without judgement. We sit so that we might gain knowlege about ourselves. We sit and ever so gradually we gain important insight.
“When we use the yoga practice of svadhyaya—self-reflection—effectively, our actions become much more than a way to achieve something external; they become a mirror in which we can learn to see ourselves more deeply. If we are willing to look at behaviors, motivations, and strategies we habitually use to maintain our own self-image, we can use svadhyaya to pierce through the veil that this self-image creates and into the nature of our own essential being”. – Gary Kraftsow
It is only through careful self study that we begin to see the things we do that harm us and others vs. those that serve us well. This is why we meditate. Without reflection there cannot be understanding, or ultimately, change.