Foundation Friday: Swadhyaya


Our Foundation Friday series delves into the basics of yoga—looking at its postures (asana), breath (pranayama), philosophy, and all the other essentials—giving you the foundations upon which to build a solid practice.  Today we are sharing a teaching from Pantanjali's classic yoga sutras, Swadhyaya or self-study.  


Foundation Friday: Swadhyaya, Self-Study

Swadhyaya, the 4th Niyama Sva | Self Adhyaya | investigation or inquiry


“Study, when it is developed to the highest degree, brings one close to higher forces that promote understanding of the most complex.”

 -The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, 11.44


Swadhyaya is one of the five Niyamas (daily observances) presented in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.  These practices are the foundation of a yogic life; the system of the Niyamas lend to simplifying clutter and observing/attaining stillness.  Pantanjali teaches that these practices progress your spiritual life on the basis that everything you need is inward.  What one looks for is already there.  These 5 observances are a system meant to work in harmony rather than isolation.



Patanjali also notes that this Niyama involves the study of the ancient scriptures pertaining to Yoga (The Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, and The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali).  These teachings are used to assist us in engaging in life spiritually through self-inquiry.  As we meditate and contemplate our own life's lessons - our thoughts, emotions, reactions - we begin to learn about our true Self.  Reflecting on our own flaws, patterns and stories rather than those of others gives us the opportunity to grow, allowing our mistakes to become lessons.  In your life and within your yoga practice, look at yourself with the same discernment you use with others.  As if you are watching your life on film, notice what happens with your sensations, emotions, feelings, thoughts and breath; feel empowered through your process of self-study.


The Five Niyamas


The first Niyama: Saucha

Saucha is cleanliness which involves keeping your body clean inside and out.  This includes eating the right food, decluttering your environment, communicating with clean and clear words as well as purification of the mind.


The second Niyama: Santosha

Santosha or contentment is the practice of being content with having enough in life.


The third Niyama: Tapas

Tapas is the practice of austerity or self discipline. This is a practice for simplifying your life, removing all the unnecessary things that do not serve you. It is a way of reflecting the external into the internal to refine your needs.  The interference of thoughts and emotions can prevent us from seeing our inner stillness.


The fourth Niyama: Swadhyaya

The observance of Self allows you freedom to step into your highest form through truth and discernment.


The fifth Niyama: Pranidhana

This practice allows us to surrender to the divine or higher reality.  Yoga is a spiritual practice but not a religion - the science and vehicle that enables us to understand our own beliefs better.

The Yoga Code - With Jackie Dumaine


What is The Yoga Code™?  An incredible and thorough description is below.


Yoga is so much more than looking good in a pair of black stretchy pants!


The 10 Sacred Principles of The Yoga Code™ are based on the ancient wisdom found in The Yoga Sutras an ancient yogic text written approximately 2000 years ago by the Indian sage Patanjali. They have absolutely nothing to do with the physical postures.


REPEAT:  They have absolutely nothing to do with the physical postures.


In our body-obsessed Western world, we seem to simply focus on the postures, neglecting the true transformative powers of the yoga tradition. The 10 Sacred Principles are known as The Yamas & Niyamas in yoga philosophy and serve as the absolute foundation for the practice of living a yogic lifestyle.

Pantajali believed that before you even step foot on a yoga mat, these principles should by studied, practiced and applied into your daily life. Each principle is not independent of one another but rather weave together to form a beautiful tapestry.


“Even as education in the primary school level is important, since it paves the way for one’s further mental build, the Yamas and Niyamas are the rock-bottom of Yoga.


The tonic of Yamas & Niyamas will provide the power and courage needed to face all obstacles. The Yama-Niyama process constitutes the instructions in yoga psychology, which should give us sufficient warning on the path and make us vigilant pilgrims on the spiritual journey. ~ Sri Swami Krishnananda. What are the 10 Sacred Principles?  Here is a brief overview for you in both traditional Sanskrit language and translated into the Western meaning.


1. Ahimsa

Kindness and Compassion

Non-Harming towards all living things. In thoughts, in actions, in words.  This must first begin with ourselves in the form of self-love. Practice loving kindess towards yourself first and the energy of those around you becomes more gentle and kind.


2. Satya


Living in integrity. Speaking your truth and living an authentic life without trying to be something or someone that isn't in alignment with your values.  Not lying to yourself or others.  Acknowledging that truth is not rigid, it flows and changes just as you do.


3. Asteya


Taking only what is yours. In a world addicted to consuming, we often take more than what we require which takes away from others who lack basic needs.  It also can lead to a negative effect on our environment.  Not stealing opportunities from yourself or others by not living up to your full potential.



4. Brahmacharya

Non-Excess or Moderation

Embracing life’s pleasures without reckless abandon.  Seeing the Divine in everything.  It allows you to indulge in the pleasures of life but having the awareness to know when you've had "enough".  By seeing the Divine in everything we can appreciate what we have and will experience unlimited abundance.


5. Aparigraha

Non-attachment, Non-Greed

Letting go of the need to control thoughts, people, situations and outcomes.  When you let go of things/people/circumstances that hold you down, you create space for lightness and unlimited opportunity.   In this non-attachment, you are also asked to not define  yourself by your possessions. If you attach your identity to your "stuff" who will you be if your "stuff" goes away?


6. Saucha

Purity and Simplicity

In all things: Body, Mind, Spirit & Surroundings.  Simplify the way you nourish your body, the way you consume information, the roles and responsibilities you take on,  the way you live your life.  Declutter your home and create a sacred space.   Become friends with silence and stillness to purify the mind and spirit.


7. Santosha


Find true joy and happiness with where you are regardless of the external circumstance or challenge. Become fully accountable (and thus empowered) for where you are in your life.   Practice gratitude for what you have and embrace each moment exactly the way it is.  Stop wishing things were different than what they are.


8. Tapas

Burning Commitment, Self-Discipline

The determination to go on when faced with obstacles and challenges and welcoming the struggles that lead to growth and expansion.  Understand that the mind likes to give up before our spirit does.  Follow through with responsibilities and keep the commitments  and agreements you've made to yourself and to others.


9. Svadhyaya


Observe  your actions, your ego and continuously seek out opportunities to learn about your Self.  Live in a state of awareness to notice and question all of your decisions and behaviours (both positive and negative).  Read spiritual texts to continuously learn and grow while you develop the skill of self-inquiry and self-reflection.


10. Ishvara Pranidhana


Acknowledge that there is a Divine force at work and have faith that it will lead you on the right path. Learn to live in the “Flow” of life rather than fight against the current. Surrender isn't about giving up or quitting, it's about the powerful freedom that comes with knowing we are all part of a bigger plan.


To learn more about The Yoga Code™ you can visit Jackie's page here