During cold-weather months, underneath the bustle of the holidays, the Earth is preparing in the northern hemisphere for a long period of inner stillness before the rebirth of spring. The closing of the year elicits contemplation: What has transpired? Where are we headed? What is left undone?
Within yoga, self-reflection is called svadhyaya: "study" (adhyaya) of the "self" (sva). As one of the eight limbs of Patanjali's ashtanga yoga described in the Yoga Sutra, this practice of self-study refers to both the understanding of the Self through the study of sacred texts as well as the skill of self-observation that leads to yoga or unification.
In yoga practice, svadhyaya helps you observe moment-to-moment changes in your body-mind. How are you feeling in your body? Is your mind present? What subject matter draws your mind away? Applying svadhyaya to the yoga postures is one way of connecting to the truth within yourself. As we head into the new year, let's apply svadhyaya within a subtle twisting forward bend, Janu Sirsasana, to cultivate the quality of balance, introspection, and connectedness that we long for during the changing of the seasons.