Study of the Self

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about svadhyaya, or self-study. It’s one of the five yamas, or “observances,” listed in the Yoga Sutras as part of the eight-limbed path of yoga. To practice svadhyaya means to be constantly examining yourself — your thoughts, words, and actions — making sure that you are living in alignment with your ideals and staying true to your highest self.

A great way to do this is to consider the kleshas, or “afflictions,” which are also mentioned in the Yoga Sutras. The five kleshas are:

1. Avidya (Ignorance/Misperception):When we misperceive reality, it allows all the other kleshas to take root within us.
2. Asmita (Egoism): We connect our self-worth with matters of the material world and try to demonstrate our superiority over others.
3. Raga (Desire/Attachment): We are overly attached to pleasurable experiences.
4. Dvesha (Aversion/Avoidance) : We avoid the things we perceive as negative.
5. Abinivesha (Fear of death or change): We stick to what’s familiar and comfortable.

Like anything in the Yoga Sutras, these five kleshas can be starting points for in-depth reflection and discussion. In the spirit of svadhyaya, I invite you to go through each one and consider how it might be present in your life right now. I’m certain you will learn something about yourself and maybe even be inspired (like I was) to start making some positive changes!

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