Svadyaya: Self-Study

svadyaya self study memorization of poetry at yoga teacher training in Costa Rica Pavones Yoga Center

Svadyaya, or self-study, is one of the niyamas, the internal practices within Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga. Svadyaya traditionally would have referred to the study and memorization of sacred texts. Today, we are bombarded with so much information, we spend so much time glancing casually at words, that the practice of svadyaya is more important than ever. The question is… what are our sacred texts?

Poetry is one place to unearth sacred texts, and in that vein, a way of practicing svadyaya is to memorize favorite pieces of poetry and prose.Think of memorizing poetry as a way to rewire the neural circuitry of your brain. This mind-brain training invites a mental clarity and calm that is conducive to mindfulness and one-pointed attention (another of Patanjali’s eight limbs).

This is the latest poem I’ve chosen, I thought perhaps some yoga teacher training graduates or prospective students of future yoga teacher trainings at Pavones Yoga Center may want to take on the practice with me… A way of being connected at a distance.

Mary Oliver      |       “The Moth, The Mountains, The Rivers”

svadyaya self study memorization of poetry at yoga teacher training in Costa Rica Pavones Yoga Center“Who can guess the luna’s sadness who lives so briefly? Who can guess the impatience of stone, longing to be ground down to be part of something livelier? Who can imagine in what heaviness the rivers remember their original clarity? 

Strange questions, yet I have spent worthwhile time with them. And I suggest them to you also, that your spirit grow in curiosity, that your life be richer that it is, that you bow to the earth as you feel how it actually is, that we — so clever, and ambitious, and selfish, and unrestrained — are only one design of the moving, the vivacious many.” 

From the collection of poems titled A Thousand Mornings

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3 thoughts on “Svadyaya: Self-Study

  1. jdunnsnow says:

    Love this! One of my teachers recites a Mary Oliver poem occasionally! I will have to find my own now 🙂

    Wild Geese

    You do not have to be good.
    You do not have to walk on your knees
    for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
    You only have to let the soft animal of your body
    love what it loves.
    Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
    Meanwhile the world goes on.
    Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
    are moving across the landscapes,
    over the prairies and the deep trees,
    the mountains and the rivers.
    Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
    are heading home again.
    Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
    the world offers itself to your imagination,
    calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
    over and over announcing your place
    in the family of things.

    – Mary Oliver

    1. Pavones Yoga Center says:

      hey jdunnsnow! thanks for the sweet comment! I too love the Mary Oliver Wild Geese poem — it was one of the first poems I memorized 🙂 and in my top ten favorites of all time. You may want to check out David Whyte. His poetry (and international presentations) are excellent too. Have a great Labor Day weekend!

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