When you start out on the journey to better heath it can be difficult to know where to start. Should you focus on eating a more nutritious diet or try moving your body? Maybe start a meditation practice or develop your personal relationships? These are all great ways to improve your health which can lead to more energy, happier outlook and greater life satisfaction. But what if I told you that there is one thing which can lead you to better health in all areas?
In my experience the practice of self-study or Svadhyaya (svad-ee-ya-ya) is the foundational practice which can help you to make positive changes and “level up” your life experience.
What is Svadhyaya?
Svadhyaya is one of the niyamas intoduced in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. They are the duties or observances described in the eight-limbed path of ashtanga yoga. Svadhyaya is the practice of self-study or self-reflection, sometimes with the help of spiritual books. Practicing self-study means to observe yourself from an outside, non-judgmental seat. You start to witness your habitual thoughts, feelings and behaviours. With consistent, dedicated practice you eventually start to understand the true nature of your being.
How can self-study lead to better health?
Through self-study you start to see the stories you tell yourself on a daily basis. We all have our stories that have arrived as a result of past experiences and our emotional reactions to them. These stories can loop around our minds and affect our choices and actions. They create energy blockages in our body-mind system where our attention is partially distracted at all times.
When energy is tied up in these blockages, it is not available to direct towards other areas of your life. This can lead to unsatisfying relationships, work, hobbies and self-image. You don’t feel good about yourself and you are not fully present to make the most of your experiences.
Energy blockages can also prevent you from taking action to improve your health. You have a limited amount of energy available to use and some of it is leaking away by keeping these stories alive. This leaves less energy for healthy lifestyle habits such as preparing healthy food, moving your body and nurturing your interests and relationships.
In many cases our stories can keep us stuck in habits that are not serving us. No matter what are intentions are, our habits are what shape the actions we take and the outcomes we see. Witnessing our stories and releasing ourselves from their ties can liberate us to make choices that are aligned with our goals and values.
Release your stories to find better health
Identifying the stories which are holding you back can help you to make lasting changes and better health in all areas by changing the way you think, feel and show up in the world every day. Some examples of stories which can prevent you from finding better health:
You hold the story that you are boring and unlikeable. In your interactions with others you will be partially distracted worrying about what they think of you. Instead of being yourself and interacting authentically there will seem to be a barrier between yourself and others.
You hold the story that you’re not physically attractive. When you present yourself you will be constantly distracted by worrying about how you look. This will be reflected in your posture and the energy you give out and will dim your natural beauty and attractiveness.
You hold the story that exercise must be intense and no pain no gain. When you exercise you will be tense and stressed and end up pushing yourself too hard. You will be unable to enjoy the process and reap the benefits for your mental wellbeing. Eventually you will burn out and give up altogether.
You hold the story that thin = healthy. You will make choices that focus on losing weight believing this is what it takes to be healthy. In doing so you might neglect other areas of your health such as skipping workouts when your body needs to rest and enjoying tasty but less healthy food with loved ones.
These are just a few simple examples. Take time to reflect on the stories YOU tell yourself and feel free to share with the community in the comments below.
Personally, the practice of self-study is the one thing that finally helped me to move into a place of true wellbeing. In the past I thought that restrictive dieting, intense exercise and pushing myself to succeed was the way to better health. On the outside I might have looked fit and healthy but inside I experienced intense fear around food, chronic insomnia and anxiety, zero energy, poor digestion, failing relationships because I focused on my obsessive healthy lifestyle over socialising with friends.
I held multiple stories that all led down the same path – that I wasn’t good enough as I was. That I had to try harder, be better, do more. In the end none of this ever led to true health. The situation got worse and worse until I eventually hit the breaking point. And this was when yoga arrived in my life to save the day! Since then, regular practice of self-study, along with the other elements of the yogic path, I’ve found a deeper acceptance of myself and better health in all areas of my life. I never expected that by letting go, freeing myself of these stories and allowing myself to go with the flow would have such an impact but it did!
So what are the stories that you are telling yourself every day and what habits are they leading to? Are there stories that are keeping you from true acceptance and love for yourself? Are there stories which are preventing you from taking action that could lead you to better health? Taking the time to reflect on this will help to you realise what you truly need and how to get there.
Over to you…
If you would like to work with me to balance your hormones and improve your health, contact me to set up a free 15 minute discovery call. I am a nutritionist, yoga teacher and women’s wellness coach. We work together using a combination of modalities to support your individual needs and help you to feel your best.
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