Svadhyaya, the fourth Niyama, meaning ‘self-study’. When reading yogic text you will find there is a difference between ‘self’ and ‘Self’. The self is the false self, whereas the Self is the higher self. In Svadhyaya we practice studying the false self, meaning our physical form, our ego, attachments and identity.
By studying the self we become more aware of our behaviour as it creates a separation between the body- and mind and the Self as the awareness, breaking the illusion that we are the body and mind.
Svadhyaya can be practiced by simply observing your thoughts without engaging in them, or it could be to observe your body as you move from asana to asana, or by questioning your intention behind your behaviour. It could be to put yourself in uncomfortable situations and be curious about how it affect you. You may take a look at your habits and patterns and challenge them.
It is easier to see what we are not, than to see what we are. You may look at Svadhyaya as a practice of eliminating illusions.
In the 8 Limbs of Yoga, the sixth limb is Dharana, which means concentration. Concentration is a vital ability in your yogic practice. In fact, it’s a vital ability in anything you do in life. One of my many teachers- Dandapani, defines concentration like this “Concentration is the ability to keep your awareness at one point for an extended period of time”. He also says that if you water your garden, both flowers and weeds will grow, because water does not differentiate the two. The same way energy does not differentiate between positive and negative. Our awareness is energy, and whatever you want in life, it requires some energy. Your ability to concentrate your energy on something determines how fast and well it will grow.
If the mind had a muscle it would be called willpower. Whenever you try to meditate and your mind drifts off, it is your consciousness that notice and your willpower that draws is back to your point of focus and keeps it there. Concentration is therefor a product of willpower.
Let’s say you watch a movie. The producer of the movie wants to take you on a journey. He takes your awareness to different places that makes you happy, sad, angry, annoyed, compassionate and so on. With great willpower, you don’t need a movie to take you on such journeys. You can use your willpower to get to those same places by yourself.
Just as it takes willpower to do something we don’t want to do, it is the same muscle that brings your awareness away from stressful places to peaceful places. When we’re anxious our minds are drawn to everything that may go wrong, but with willpower we can take back control and calm our minds simply by changing our place of awareness.