Self Study

The term Svadhyaya literally means ‘one’s own reading’ or ‘self-study’. It is the fourth Niyama of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and has the potential to deepen our yoga practice way beyond the mat, or in the case of many of my students the chair.

The word itself is made up of Sva, meaning own, self, or the human soul, and Adhyaya, meaning lesson, lecture, or reading, and can imply the practice of studying scriptures, as well as a practice of studying the Self.

And the Self I am speaking of is the divine Self, the true Self, not the labels and attachments we have about who we think we are, or the ego. When we listen to the ego, we often do things that don’t always align with our true beliefs, values or intuition. The ‘I’ or small ‘self’ is mostly concerned with survival, which usually entails getting what it wants in all situations, and proving it is indeed ‘the best’. The small self judges, criticizes, fears, conditions, doubts and is essentially the cause of the chitta vrittis, or ‘fluctuations of the mind’. That ol’ monkey mind that constantly floods our thoughts.

By paying attention to, or ‘studying’ our ‘self’, we become more aware of the things we do that harm us, and also those which serve us and bring us closer to that process of ‘yoking’ or ‘uniting’ with the true Self. The ultimate purpose in Yoga is the yoke or find union.

So many of my students lost who they identified with prior to their accident or diagnosis. The job titles, letters after their signature that represented their years of schooling, the size of their bank account, their successes, etc. These amazing people have been forced into deep self study, and I am in constant awe as they step fully into the Self. The willingness to look at their behaviors and thoughts are outstanding and inspiring. Their courage invites me to do the same.

Self Study requires a willingness to read the some of the ancient texts of Yoga that lead us towards a direction to the Self. We do the work, but the texts are a roadmap. The Yoga Sutras are the framework in which we actually live yoga off the mat or outside of the chair.

Studying our habits on the yoga mat (or chair) can go a long way towards recognizing our habits outside of the physical practice. The way in which we practice yoga is actually very reflective of the way we practice life…. and a person’s physical yoga practice often reveals a lot more about them than they may think.

When we’re on the mat or in our chair there’s nowhere else to go and hide behind. The daily distractions of phones, chores, emails, and TV are no longer there to take our minds away from ourselves. We have the chance to ask and then listen.

We also actually have to pay attention…. This can be a little intimidating at first, and a yoga practice can sometimes reveal more about where our problems are rather than how perfect we are – which as we know, is very good for destroying the ego.

In a Yoga session it is imperative to ask yourself where am I holding tension? The jaw, forehead, neck, shoulders and upper back are common places we tend to store our fears and worries. Ask yourself why this tension might be present, and how often does it arise during your practice? How often does a negative commentary about your abilities (or lack of) enter your mind? How many times do you compare or compete with who you think you should be? Where does your mind go in an attempt to distract the sensation of breath and body?

Watch your thoughts, they become words; watch your words, they become actions; watch your actions, they become habits; watch your habits, they become character; watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.


Svadhyaya in the sense of studying our selves in daily life though, requires us to really take our yoga practice off the mat or out of the chair.

Knowing what we’re doing in each moment requires us to pay attention, but asking the question “why am I doing this?” requires us to be aware and fully present, which is ‘paying attention’ on a whole other level. Questioning our actions is something we may often avoid, as it is usually a catalyst for change, and as humans we don’t often like change. We prefer the static way of predictability in our daily lives so much that even changing the slightest thing can cause a ripple effect of angst.

I encourage students to practice this willingness by not always choosing the same spot to set up their mat or chair. I offer movements that are not predictable and not always a traditional way of teaching. We may turn to the rear of the mat rather than face the front to actually practice doing something that isn’t the same old routine. For my adaptive yoga students I am constantly challenging them with small changes as it increasing mental resilience and flexibility of the mind and shows them that the minor emotional deregulation in the safety of a Yoga class actually builds confidence that they can in fact handle changes and apply them to their life in the community which is constantly changing.

I often say to students we practice here what we will apply there.

The practice of taking a proverbial step back and observing and questioning our actions can eventually allow us to disentangle ourselves from those aspects of our lives that are harmful to our wellbeing.

Observe yourself as though you were watching someone else; observe the way you speak to friends and family, the way you react when plans change, the way you hold yourself when walking or sitting, or even just the way in which you get dressed each morning… it all tells the story of who and how we are in this moment.

The practice of svadhyaya requires satya (honesty) in order to view ourselves from an honest standpoint, tapas (discipline) – because taking an honest look at ourselves isn’t always something we like doing…. And ahimsa (non violence) which reminds us to look at ourselves without judgement or criticism.

That is the beauty of self study. A peek inside of ourselves at the Self level and then polishing off the smudges that take away our light. Ideally this study happens both in a practice and in every moment of our lives. Seriously, who wouldn’t want to be a better version of themselves each day?

The first step is looking inward and removing all the things you think you are and looking at Truth. From there we see the habits, the patterns, the nonsense and we gracefully remove the things that are getting in the way of the true Self.

Feel like taking a deep dive into your self by practicing some Svadhyaya?

Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the Self”

The Bhagavad Gita

Stacie believes that it is her life purpose to share the gift of Yoga with anyone who is willing to say yes. In addition to raising a family and being an advocate for those with disabilities, Stacie is founder of Embracing Spirit Yoga which specializes in bringing adaptive Yoga into community centers and rehabilitation clinics. Bringing her depth of compassion to the mat–or the chair–she offers students the opportunity to grow as an individual in all aspects of their life. Stacie is currently contracted across the country in a variety of residential programs for adults with traumatic brain injuries and other disabilities.

With over sixteen years experience, Stacie Wyatt is a E-RYT 500 hour Registered Yoga Teacher with Yoga Alliance, a Certified Brain Injury Specialist, Life Wellness Coach, Senior YogaFit Instructor, Mind/Body Personal trainer, Stress Reduction and Meditation Instructor, Pilates Instructor, and Barre Instructor. Stacie is also certified in Integrative Movement Therapy™and is also a believer in the power and application of essential oils for health and wellness and proudly shares doTERRA essential oils.

Stacie brings her personal life experience of raising a daughter with a disability and over 12 years working in special education to her everyday Yoga classes. In addition to teaching classes in her studio and in the community, Stacie also continues to offer Yoga and Wellness coaching individually to those seeking private sessions.

The Practice of Svadhyaya (Self Study)

Svadhyaya asks you to suspend looking outside for perceptions of yourself, and instead, look at your inner life–your beliefs, your priorities, and your actions. -Suzan Colon

The term svadhyaya literally means ‘one’s own reading’ or ‘self study’. It is is the fourth niyama of patnajali’s sutras and has the potential to deepen our yoga way beyond the mat.  My favorite translation or definition of this beautiful inner work called Svadhyaya refers to any activity wherein we quietly study ourselves and reflect upon our actions, thoughts, emotions, motivations, aspirations, desires and needs in pursuit of a deeper experience of our lives and our own selves.

The physical aspects to the yoga practice offers the perfect opportunity to explore svadhyaya.

To create each posture you must move and place the various parts of your body into a shape on a rectangle. You could do this without any real engagement or awareness, carelessly going through the motions while your mind is a million miles away, or you could work towards staying present with each and every moment as it arises. You could notice how the body responds to being aligned a certain way, observe physical sensations, watch how your mind reacts to what you’re doing with your body, experience any emotions that show up, and listen to the ebb and flow of your breath. 

Often when we’re practicing yoga on the mat discomfort—or sometimes pain—becomes evident.

If we slow down, apply this form of self awareness, or svadhyaya, and truly contemplate what’s happening in our bodies and minds, pain becomes an important teacher. We can examine the subtleties of pain and begin to understand the difference between “bad pain” that is harmful and injurious to our bodies; and “good pain,” mild or moderate discomfort that we can stay with, breathe into and observe as it shifts and changes.

Since my first hip surgery in 2016, I have greatly avoided the physical practice and therefore, avoided this kind of deeper self-inquiry. Sure, I did some chair yoga as I taught my classes and I would occasionally unroll my mat but honestly it was more as a way to simply say that I am practicing. Truth is I wasn’t practicing at all. Or at least very often.

I might find myself being a tad more consistent and then another injury and another surgery would put me back in the same resistance and emptiness of anything closely resembling a physical yoga practice.

With great honesty I can say that as time has gone on I have made up a million excuses as to why I was not practicing a physical yoga. Some of the excuses were legitimate and some of them were downright falsehoods.

I missed my time on the mat a lot, but I still resisting it until recently when I began to choose time on the yoga mat. Rather than spend too much time in the morning reading and journaling (and avoiding the mat), I have since shortened that sitting time to spend more of my so-called ‘spirit time’ with myself on the mat. This inner work has been transformative to me in just a few weeks.

I began to feel like I had come home after years of being away. I felt like the dear old friend has returned and without any judgment she has welcomed me into the sanctuary of pure love and acceptance.

This morning as I was paying attention to the sensations within my body (while also fighting the grumblings of any ego based thoughts entering my mind about what my body used to be able to do or feel…more self-study), I realized this magnificent practice of self study is a gift that opens the doors to so many other deep discoveries. I found the voice speaking softly to me while practicing the way any dear old friend would speak; encouraging, kind, compassionate, loving. This beautiful friend reminded my body of all that it has endured and welcomed her back to feel and soak in the sensations as perfect and whole.