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Svadhyaya, the Fourth Niyama

Welcome back! In the last few posts, we talked about Tapas, heat, or discipline. In the next few posts, we will talk about the fourth Niyama, Svadhyaya which means self-study, or the study of the Self.

It is not about psychoanalysis. We are not talking about analyzing our thoughts, feelings, or fantasies. It is about contemplation, reflection. It is our search for meaning.

You may have heard the analogy of the ocean. Each wave is an individual, as it rises above and rolls across the surface, you can see the waves as separate entities. But each wave is also the ocean. A wave cannot be separated from the ocean. They are one whole.

The yogis believed that each mind is like a wave. Individual, but not separate. Each individual awareness is a part of the one universal consciousness. We all have our own thoughts and feelings, but our awareness is part of that whole. We think of that awareness as the Self, with a capital “S”.

As we learn to go deeper into our awareness, we begin to experience and to “Know” our Self, our consciousness. We begin to more deeply understand that which we are only a part of. We see ourselves in others and we recognize others as not “other”, but as part of us.

It is not a short trip to get to know our Selves. It is a life-long journey, this study of “who am I?” Life tends to throw many distractions in our path. Our mind likes to put competing thoughts in our way, and we want to see things as this or that. We want to be individual. It seems to be easier for us to sort things in this way, including ourselves.

Therefore meditation and mindfulness practices are an important part of yoga. When we can sit in mediation, when we can contemplate, we can reflect. We can observe our individual Self as part of the universal whole. We start to see how we are the wave and the ocean all at once.

Thanks for stopping by. Next time, we will talk about Svadhyaya on the mat.

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