In Search of the Sacred Svadhyaya

Because yoga encourages the study of the sacred (svadhyaya), it may be helpful for you to become at least somewhat familiar with the major spiritual texts. Reading and studying any or all of them will benefit your yoga practice by expanding your mind to possibilities you may not have considered.

Svadhyaya (pronounced svahd-YAH-yah) means "inquiring into your own nature, the nature of your beliefs, and the nature of the world's spiritual journey." Accomplished by the study of sacred texts, such as the Bhagavad Gita and the Bible, as well as through self-contemplation, svadhyaya is one of yoga's observances and one aspect of Patanjali's Eightfold Path, as described in the Yoga Sutra (and further explained in Chapter 6, "Walking Yoga's Eightfold Path").

Know Your Sanskrit

Svadhyaya (pronounced svahd-YAH-yah) means "inquiring into your own nature, the nature of your beliefs, and the nature of the world's spiritual journey." Accomplished by the study of sacred texts, such as the Bhagavad Gita and the Bible, as well as through self-contemplation, svadhyaya is one of yoga's observances and one aspect of Patanjali's Eightfold Path, as described in the Yoga Sutra (and further explained in Chapter 6, "Walking Yoga's Eightfold Path").

We aren't saying you should give up your other pursuits and devote your life to the minute study of ancient religious scriptures (unless you think that sounds like fun). However, reading the sacred texts of our world, or even just those of your own religion, can help you get in touch with the spiritual journey our species has undergone since we were first able to comprehend the concepts of spirituality, divinity, and the universe.

Here are a few of the major sacred texts of India (since that's where yoga really blossomed, and many of these texts directly mention yoga or its concepts):

> The Rig-Veda, considered the most ancient of sacred texts. Meaning "Knowledge of Praise," it's been orally passed down via sages who memorized it. Consisting of 1,028 hymns, the Rig-Veda is now believed to be over 4,000 years old.

> The Upanishads, the scriptures of ancient Hindu philosophy, which describes the path of Jnana Yoga, the discipline of wisdom as a path to self-realization.

> The Bhagavad Gita, perhaps the most famous Hindu text and the epic story of Arjuna, a warrior-prince, who confronts moral dilemmas and is led to a better understanding of reality through the intercession of the god Krishna.

Wise Yogi Tells Us

The Bhagavad Gita is one of India's most beloved sacred texts. It tells the epic story of the warrior-prince Arjuna as he stands at the edge of a battlefield preparing for war. He discusses his universal moral dilemmas with the Hindu god, Krishna, who is driving Arjuna's chariot. Is war justified? What if your loved ones are on the opposing side? What is right when your duties conflict? What does it mean to be born, to live, to die? The Bhagavad Gita is widely available and still a good read. (And it isn't even very long!) Pick up a copy and see what the fuss is all about. It's a beautiful story of inner quests and spiritual awakenings.

> The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, the source of Patanjali's Eightfold Path. Many call Patanjali the father of yoga because of this significant and influential text, but yoga was around long before Patanjali, who only made it more accessible.

> The Hatha-Yoga-Pradipika, a fourteenth-century guide to Hatha Yoga— everything you always wanted to know about Hatha Yoga but were afraid to ask!

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