Research as yoga

During yoga class last night, our teacher L spent some time speaking with us about yoga philosophy. She brought our awareness to Patanjali, the person who documented his thoughts and knowledge of yoga in The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, a few thousand years ago. More specifically, our teacher drew our attention to three aspects of Niyama, the inner discipline: (this is in my own and my teacher’s words, obviously the philosophy set out my Patanjali is far more comprehensive)

Tapas – the work we do

Svadhyaya – study of the self

Ishvara-pranidhana – surrendering into what is

As L shared these concepts with us and put them into the context of our class and the postures we had been doing, I drew parallels between each discipline and my research practice: 

Tapasthe busy work of research that is set out in my method. Undertaking fieldwork, transcribing conversations, reading literature, writing, meeting with supervisors, administrative tasks, the list goes on. The ‘work’ in my research is diverse and for most of the time I feel incredibly positive about doing it.

Svadhyayafor the past year I have been using a processes set out in The Artist’s Way called Morning Pages Journaling. Usually when I wake up each morning (or whenever I can fit it in) I journal for 3 pages, regardless of whether I feel I have anything to write about. As I have deepened into this practice I am able to hone more quickly onto the disconcertments I am feeling in my body about issues related to my research, relationships, work and other areas of my life. This study of myself has allowed me to stay in positive relationship with my research and the people that support me in my research. Most of the time this writing is bland and inane, but occasionally I have a stroke of insight and am able to draw connections that allow me to subtly shift my way of being in the world.

Ishvara-pranidhana – I have contemplated what this discipline means for my research practice as it did not resonate with me straight away. I think that surrendering to what is, is about being in the flow of my research – listening deeply to where it wants to go rather than driving it from a head-strong position of always thinking I know. It is also about surrendering into relationships so that I let go of control (or the illusion of control) and can listen from a place of neutrality and be with people-place in a more authentic, present way.

I felt embarrassed and reluctant to write about this idea of research as yoga, because of a self-consciousness of how it might be ‘read’ by others… but it is the metaphor that resonates most with me right now. The practice of research is a discipline, like my practice of yoga. It is a process that I want to honor because I know that it reflects all of me and my being in the world.

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One response to “Research as yoga

  1. I find it interesting how what feels embarrassing and vulnerable to the person experiencing or expressing something, is the stuff in life which ultimately speaks and resonates most with others. Could it be that authenticity is the thread that links and is travelled by us all between the work we do (Tapas), the study of self (Svadhyaya) and surrendering into what is (Ishvara-pranidhana?

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