Monday, April 12, 2010

Svadhyaya: Tree Pose around the world

I just got back from Rocky Point, Mexico with a bunch of people from the yoga teacher training program. My class ended on Thursday, and Friday we left for Mexico. The second-to-last niyama, svadhyaya, which translates to self-study in English, has been a major focus of the YTT program, and this trip helped shed new light on it for me. In yoga, svadhyaya is one step before self surrender or surrender to the Divine. In law, self study is where we do all the prep work before walking into a hearing, a trial, a meeting, etc. and using that knowledge to be our best. For all of us, self study helps prepare us for whatever life throws our way. For me, the new understanding begins with vrksasana, tree pose, on a beach. 

I have decided that my business cards need to feature me doing tree pose in a suit. I want to show that yoga can be done anywhere, by anyone. Why tree pose? Well, I have a confession - it's my favorite. I know, I know, we are not supposed to have favorite postures, but I do. I love trees, love them. When people from CA move to AZ, they often say they miss the water. Me? I miss the trees. My favorite thing about MI in college was watching the trees turn colors, seeing and feeling the trees around me. This weekend by the water was awesome, but my heart belongs to trees. In yoga, tree pose symbolizes more than just a tree for me. It is a balance posture; it requires a balance between strength and flexibility; it symbolizes the balance between our connection to the Earth and our connection to the heavens as we reach up. And it can be done anywhere, even in a suit. But I digress . . . 

What does tree pose have to do with self study? On this trip to Mexico, everything! We did yoga on the beach, during the day and at night. There were people around, and sure, it was much different in the sand than on a sticky mat, but we did it. Then a friend and I got stuck at the border, for over an hour. Antsy and annoyed, she suggested we do yoga. Yep, right there in the street! It was awesome. I felt so much better afterward, and I had a blast doing it. I got another picture in tree pose. My friend came up with a great idea; I'm going to document my yoga through tree pose, wherever I am, whatever I am doing, just be a tree! Find that balance, that connection, everywhere. See how it feels in all sorts of situations. 

Doing yoga is much simpler on a mat or in an ashram. There are few distractions, and the set-up works. These are great places to learn how to do yoga, to learn to look inside, to start to find our balance, to become yogis. But all that study, including the self study, needs to leave the mat. I came to yoga to find some peace of mind one summer when my life looked like it was falling apart. Yoga started for me as a personal journey of discovery - how could I break free of all those restrictions? Yesterday, I was doing yoga in the middle of a street in Mexico! The day before I was doing yoga on a beach! All these years have helped me find that ease and peace in these situations. I try to live a yogic lifestyle, and I do asanas wherever I am, even walking down the hall at work (I'm working on doing tree in the hallway, but I'm not yet brave enough). And each of these moments is another way to study ourselves. We see our limitations, we break through some, and continue to work on others. But the more we turn inward, the more we practice, the easier it is to just live it. Not easy, but easier. Sure, the waves come in and knock us down, but we get better at getting back up and holding our own the next time.

What does tree pose at the border have to do with lawyers? Lawyers, as much as anyone, need to be able to go with the flow. At a moment's notice (or ruling) a case can change. A new piece of evidence can appear, and everything changes. The more solid the foundation, the less traumatic these new situations are. The more we have studied the case and the more confidence we have in ourselves, the easier it is to adjust when things change immediately. This does not, of course, apply only to lawyers. Whoever we are, the more we truly understand and can tap into our deepest selves, the better able we are to adapt to our new surroundings. It's a lot easier to do downward facing dog in the sand when you have done it 1000 times on a sticky mat. It's a lot easier to handle life's adventures when you know what life is like without them.

Sometimes we falter in these new situations, and that is okay, but sometimes you get sheer beauty . . .

May your own self study guide you through the waves of life.  

Namaste and Blessings!


  1. You. Are. Awesome! :) namaste my friend :D

  2. This was beautiful. Thanks Rebecca!

  3. The more we have studied the case and the more confidence we have in ourselves, the easier it is to adjust when things change immediately.