The Lifelong Journey of ‘Knowing Thyself’

Svadhyaya: Self Study … the fourth Niyama of the 8 Limbs

Svadhyaya is the fourth Niyama, and it translates to self study. The Niyamas make up the second of the 8 Limbs of Yoga and are essentially personal disciplines or observances we practice in an effort to find freedom.

This is the eleventh post in a series about the 8 Limbs of Yoga. If you’d like to read the other ten and an overview first, go here. I’ll wait.


I’m finding truth and meaning in the synchronicities I notice as I pay attention to life’s details, nuances and rhythms that seem random, yet each have deeper dimensions and qualities.

I’m writing this post after a lengthy hiatus. There is a pull to finish this book — or rather a necessity. A huge chapter (no pun intended) of life is coming to an end. My yoga journey is shifting and the way I view the eight limbs is distincly different from the view ten years ago. And herein lies the necessity … I want to finish the book from a similar perspective of where I started. With my current life trajectory, that will be an impossible task a year from now.

Everything changes. Every day. And some periods move faster than others. This is my current life-state.

Writing is a process of unfoldment. We write from our current perspective. We share lesson’s we’ve learned and truths that are revealed to us along the way.

Life is a process of trial and error, mistakes and corrections, issues followed by confusion and sorting through next steps. Each time I ‘mess up’ I look for ways to do better. I try to understand the meaning behind everything life presents to me.

Svadhyaya feels hard to write about because we are always in the middle of it. Retrospection and writing are better partners.

Svadhyaya is a process, an unfoldment, a lifelong journey. There is no “end game” in it.

As Socrates said, “know thyself,” it makes me wonder if he was a yogi. Perhaps we all are, in our own ways.

The yamas and niyamas are like virtures, traits to aspire to and states of consciousness to work toward. Yoga is union, when all of the yamas and niyamas and the rest of the six limbs culminate into a state of being that finally integrates us as beings, and deeply ties us into the fabric of life.

Svadhyaya is a consistent series of small steps we can do every day to move in the direction of our souls.

A few ways to practice …

  • Create and maintain a daily spiritual practice that allows you to be observant and responsive, versus oblivious and reactive
  • Spend time journaling to examine thoughts and behaviors
  • BE in nature as often as possible … I find the greatest openings when spending time outdoors. Mini-awakenings happen spontaneously
  • Examine your disagreements with others
  • Observe your gut reactions to those who ‘jerk your chain’

Stay open. Question everything. Pay attention.

Svadhyaya is an ever evolving practice that can enrich your life.


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