Learning to Learn

by Hannah Stone

     After working at Eugene Yoga, I decided to expand my own practice and earn a yoga teacher certification. This 200-hour program, which spans over 8 months, is coming to an end this month. As graduation approaches, I am amazed by how difficult and transformative it has been to learn about yoga—and how much I still have to learn about myself.
     One might think that learning would come naturally to us in the rest of our lives. But here’s the thing—as busy adults, we can get caught up in daily routines and the things we have mastered many years ago. When this happens, it’s as if our “learning muscles” get weak. So when we decide to learn something new, like yoga, we can experience challenges. We become distracted. We often hear our own thoughts judging us, telling us that we cannot accomplish or learn anything new. We might even feel compelled to give up. By exercising these “learning muscles,” and reframing struggles in our own minds, we can relearn how to learn, no matter what age.
     Did you know that babies begin learning while still in the womb? At around 38 weeks, they can recognize and react to sounds, voices, and music. Once born, babies soak up everything with curiosity, learning about the world around them. This curiosity serves the learning process as we grow, go through school, and become adults. But as we age, that curiosity is lost, or rather becomes less important in our daily lives. What if, instead, we turn our curiosity inward, and explore our own physical and mental bodies with the same intense exploration as a newborn child? What kind of information might you discover? What emotions might arise?
     In yoga, this inward exploration is called Svadhyaya, or self-study. It can bring a richness and deep meaning to your yoga practice, as well as your daily life. By examining our own thoughts, actions, and habits as a curious outsider, we can learn what serves us and what can be cast aside. On the mat, exploring with child-like curiosity how our bodies move and breathe, we learn about ourselves in a way that could never be taught by someone else, but can only be experienced by us. We might even quiet the judgmental thoughts. Svadhyaya allows us to reflect in order to create new habits. When we learn to explore our own minds and bodies with curiosity, we can bring the same intention to learning about all sorts of things—cooking, languages, chemistry, and yes—even yoga.

May 2018