The Niyamas: Svadhyaya - Studying the Self

by Wessel Paternotte

The Niyamas: Svadhyaya - Studying the Self


The theme of the month is Svadhyaya, the fourth of the niyamas from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. The term Svadhyaya stems from the words Sva (Self or Soul) and Shyaya, which comes from dhyia (to meditate, study or contemplate) and so Svadhyaya means Studying the Self. DJ Khaled would call this a Holy Key, as knowing your Self, and being your Self, is what yoga is all about. I write 'self' with capital S because the Self Patanjali is referring to, goes beyond our persona with its preferences, desires, and aversions. By contemplating ourselves, ultimately we’ll go beyond the boundaries of our thoughts and emotions, and connect with the pure consciousness that lies deep within: the Self.


The most common way to study our Self is to read inspiring books, blogs and articles. And yes, a good audiobook or video is just fine too. Going to lectures, seminars or trainings also helps us understand our deeper nature. Asana practice also offers a great way to explore Svadhyaya. When we stay present with each and every moment, we can see how our mind reacts, experience any emotions that show up, and listen to the ebb and flow of our breath. Another way to study the Self is by chanting mantras. By reciting sacred words like Om, our attention is focused on that word, and ultimately all other thoughts fall away. We arrive fully into the present moment and experience the pure consciousness within us. This is what we call the external practice, where we take in knowledge that reminds us of who (or what) we really are.


Once we start to process the knowledge that we find in our external practice, the internal practice of Svadhyaya begins. First we might intellectually understand something we read, but over time we integrate it and we can feel it in our heart. For example, when I first read about the Law of Correspondence, I understood it as As Within, So Without, As above, So below. I was excited about the concept of my thoughts (within) creating my world (without), and I started to play around with it. After some years of practice and contemplation I slowly started to integrate the second part, realizing that the divine (above) is within me (below). Mind blown.


When we practice self-reflecting contemplation, the nature of being begins to dawn in our mind. First we find knowledge from an external source, then we find it from our inner source, and then we realize that WE ARE THE SOURCE. The infinite wisdom awakens in us. Love, Compassion and Delight are fully available to us. This is the practice of Svadhyaya.


All my love,




About Wessel Paternotte

Wessel is oprichter en mede-eigenaar van Delight Yoga. Al van jongs af aan is Wessel sterk geïnteresseerd in spiritualiteit en martial arts. Hij heeft verschillende vormen van meditatie bestudeerd en verkreeg in 2006 de titel van Reiki Master.