My husband took our younger son to a movie when he was about three-years-old.  He sat in his little L-shape on the seat munching popcorn as they both watched a disappointingly boring movie.  He looked over to his dad about halfway through and asked, “Daddy, what’s my point?”  His query no doubt was not existential in nature, but just a plea toward understanding why they were enduring this insufferable experience.  My husband and I often ask this sweet question of each other  over our married journey (16 years today!)  We question as we observe the goings on of ourselves and our surroundings.  In yoga, this practice is called svadyaya: self observation, self study. 

Svadyaya is a key element in the yoga practice.  Without noticing and being aware, we simply walk this life in a rote, habitual often conflicted fog. I am always telling my students, “If you get nothing else out of this practice, I want you to at least become aware.  Just notice.” 

The goal of yoga is not to put your legs behind your head (I used to do this as a child and roll around the living room), instead, it is to wake up.  Wake up to the Truth of who you are.  The Truth is already in place and it feels as lovely as the sight of an L-shaped toddler munching popcorn in the movies.  It is the essence of each of us and the collective space in which all of us reside.  The great news is that we do not have to look outside of ourselves to find it or feel it.  The yoga practice acts as a loving tour guide toward discovering this feeling. 

 Yoga provides so many different techniques to continually practice the art of observing.  Some dive into the breath, pranayama, to experience the life force as it moves through the body.  Others rely on meditation, dhyana, as they deeply connect with silent wisdom.  Many devour the postures, asana, undoubtedly the favorite technique of Westerners, to feel that shining connection to that which transcends it all!

For me, to practice just one or two techniques cheats me out of opportunities to study the self, quiet the mind and therefore be available to feel that Truth.  So I explore each of the eight limbs of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.  Some days focus more on doing the poses.  Other days I’ll find myself chanting away.  Still other days will be filled with breathwork and meditation.  But none of it has any impact unless I apply the simplistic, diligent technique of observing the process.  Just noticing.  Without any attachment to the outcome (whew, this is such a difficult one, isn’t it?), just being aware. 

“If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.” -Buddha