Yoga for Health

This week’s Niyama: svadhyaya

Svadhyaya is self-study. We must know our body and its needs. Each of us is unique and we all have unique health concerns. Unless we are healthy, we do not have the strength to care for ourselves or others, and we cannot spread peace.

We start be doing a body scan meditation as described below. This helps to understand where our body needs most attention, bringing awareness to that area.

Begin by lying on your back with your legs extended. Fill your body with awareness, as if you were filling a glass with water. Notice how your body responds. Does it begin to release and relax, or is there resistance? Close your eyes and feel the weight of your skull and pelvis, the contact of your back on the floor. Are there places that pull away from the floor and areas that are more in contact?

Then mentally scan your body one area at a time. Begin with your toes and travel up to your legs, pelvis, spine, lower and upper back, and shoulders, then down your arms and hands, and back up your arms to your neck and head. Are there areas of discomfort, places that feel stiff or more spacious, or parts that feel warm, cold, or numb? Some areas of holding are so habitual that we skip over them without noticing; let your attention gently tap into those places. As you scan your body, see whether a running commentary is going on in your head. Try not to judge or analyze what you discover. Instead, simply notice what is present. Now bring your focus to the central column of your spine. Imagine a wide river from the base of your spine to the base of your skull. Does the river flow freely? Are there areas where it’s blocked, narrowed, or stagnated?

Next, bring your awareness to your entire body at once. Notice if there are any strong sensations remaining, areas of the body calling for attention. Now allow your mind to draw into the breath. Notice the quality, texture, and rhythm of your breathing. Is it short and choppy, long and smooth, or somewhere in between? Do you tend to hold your breath after breathing in or out? Notice the relationship between your breath, body, and thoughts.

Now check out the flow of thoughts moving through your mind. Do you have a perpetual to-do list? Are you rehashing some conversation or planning the future? Are you spacing out, or do you feel sharp and clear? Try not to make judgments—simply observe. As certain thoughts come, is there a physical response in your body or your breath?

Next, place one hand on your heart. Take a moment to feel the beating of your physical heart, your chest rising and falling with your breath. Let your awareness settle into its rhythm, then drop your attention in a little deeper, sensing the emotional heart. Is there sadness, joy, or anxiety? Don’t go deeply into any one feeling; just get a sense of the overall tone that is present at this moment. Make note of the relationship between your emotional state and your breath, between your feelings and your physical body.

Finally, feel all of these dimensions at once: physical, energetic, mental, and emotional. Notice the part of you that is observing—your unchanging awareness. Now rest in this spacious awareness.


Marjaryasana/ Bitilasana Cat/ Cow Neck
Wrist wave, standing on wrists in forward fold Wrists
Supta Padagustasana Reclining Bigtoe Hips
Oostrasana, Dhanurasana Camel, Bow (Heart openers) Anxiety
Salambasana, Agnistambhasana Locust, Firelog Low Back
Setubandha Sarvangasana, Halasana Bridge, Plough Headache
Janusirsasana, Setubandha Sarvangasana ½ butterfly fold, Bridge Sinus
Virasana, Supta Virasana Hero, Reclining Hero High Blood Pressure
Savasana Corpse Insomnia
Kamatkarasana Wild Thing Depression
Simhasana, Urdhwa Hastasana Lion’s breath, Upward Salute Asthma

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Eva
    Jan 15, 2010 @ 09:55:59

    Hi Sowmya,

    I just wanted to thank you again for some inspiring yoga classes in Stadtschlaining! Your classes made me think of yoga in a new way and I will try to integrate what I have learned for myself in the classes I take here in Hartberg.

    I hope you are fine and you enjoy the time in Innsbruck!

    Hugs, Eva


  2. Trackback: yoga back health – Yoga Central – Bound Angle Forward Bend Pose

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