Svadhyaya is most often translated to self-study or spiritual self inquiry. Svad could be translated to self, soul or human being while yaya could be translated to individual study or life lessons.
I like to think of Svadhyaya as a paradigm of thought or a mode of thinking. Let me unpack that a little bit.
When you are a spiritual aspirant so to speak, you enter an experience with a mindset of how can I learn from this experience? What is the wisdom here? In my opinion this is the complete opposite of the western world where we are practically trained to deconstruct.
Your yoga teacher (or any teacher for that matter) will be flawed. So do you pick your teacher’s flaws apart or do you take what you can learn?
In the western world we want to debate, deconstruct and pick apart (which in all fairness can be important sometimes as well). But Svadhyaya is a change of paradigm. We enter experiences with humility and we think of circumstances and situations with the mindset of how they can benefit our spiritual journey. It’s the same with spiritual texts.
With Svadhyaya we cultivate what we can call the beginner’s mind. It’s the idea of not knowing. The more you know and the more you teach, the more knowledge you accumulate, and the harder it becomes to cultivate the beginner’s mind. However, in my opinion, the beginner’s mind is so important.
I also view Svadhyaya as the ability to integrate the lessons you learn into your life. Can you reflect on the difficult situations in your life and actually use them? Don’t let the experiences, lessons and situations become your prison, don’t become a victim. Remember, you are a co-creator of your experiences. So what is your take away from the experiences?
This, to me, is Svadhyaya.