The Dhira Yoga Center invites you to “Go Inside” the Dhira Yoga Center our Grand Opening Weekend. We have three free yoga classes on Saturday, February 2 and three more on Sunday, February 3. Come celebrate with us the arrival of a very good looking baby, and a special place of peace, health and happiness for all. You can sign up online to reserve a spot. We look forward to meeting you, sharing in the practice and having some fun! Namaste.

“Go Inside” the yoga teacher always says. “But I thought I was inside!” So, what do yoga teachers mean when they urge their students to “go inside”?

Pantanjali, the compiler of the Yoga Sutras, Raja (or Classical) Yoga’s primary text, begins with laying the foundation of the eight limbed path, that is, he begins with the yamas (how we ought to interact with others) and niyamas (personal disciplines). Svadhyaya is one of the niyamas. Sva means “self” and adhyaya means “education of.” Svadhyaya then is the study of the self and is also often interpreted to include the education of the self through the study of yoga texts. This practice, studying one’s self, is common to many traditions outside of yoga as well. Socrates urged the same practice as reflected in his famous aphorisms — “Know thyself” and “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

When we practice the third limb of Pantanjali’s eight limbed path, the asanas (yoga poses), our focus should be internal, studying the breath, studying the mind, studying the body, studying the self. A yoga teacher telling you to “Go inside” is urging you to practice svadhyaya. This internal discipline is akin to practicing the fifth limb of Pantanjali’s eight fold path, pratyahara, or withdrawal of the senses. When our focus is turned away from our sense experience, away from what our eyes and ears are distracting us with (and away from, dare I say, our own chattiness), then we have the opportunity to study the self. When practicing asana, we should strive to turn away from the external world towards the internal — our breath, body and mind — this is practicing pratyahara , and studying the self — svadhyaya. In this regard, it is helpful, when practicing asanas, to close your eyes from time to time while holding a pose.

Vinyasa yoga, what is practiced at Dhira Yoga, is often described as “moving meditation”. The last three limbs of Pantanjali’s exposition of yoga are all internal practices – Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation) and Samadhi (awakening to bliss when the ego disappears). In our practice of svadhyaya, the aim is to study the self, to gain self-knowledge. Self-study does not mean to judge nor to “fix” ourselves, or our thoughts or our emotions. It is to become aware of them. Pema Chodron captures this idea so eloquently in the following passage:

“When people start to meditate or work with any type of spiritual discipline, they often think that somehow they’re going to improve, which is a sort of subtle aggression against who they really are. It’s a bit like saying, “If I jog, I’ll be a much better person.” “If I could only get a nicer house, I’d be a better person.” “If I could meditate and calm down, I’d be a better person.” . . . But loving-kindness “maitri” toward ourselves doesn’t mean getting rid of anything. Maitri means that we can still be crazy after all these years. We can still be angry after all these years. We can still be timid or jealous or full of feelings of unworthiness. The point is not to try to throw ourselves away and become something better. It’s about befriending who we are already. The ground of practice is you or me or whoever we are right now, just as we are. That’s the ground, that’s what we study, that’s what we come to know with tremendous curiosity and interest.”

– Pema Chodron, The Wisdom of No Escape and the Path of Loving Kindness.

So, go inside, be curious about what you may find, and don’t try to fix anything. Don’t try to be the “perfect” meditator. Practice loving kindness towards yourself, be accepting. Study yourself. Don’t judge. Don’t make it “right”. Just go inside. See you inside the center.