The next limb we'll explore, is the fourth tenet of the Niyamas... Svadhaya.
Svadhaya generally means the practice of self-study. This practice can be done in several ways, including watching the tendencies of your mind, actions and reactions with a sense of curiosity and observation and the reading of ancient yogic texts.
"Study motivated by the necessity to review and evaluate our progress. When developed to the highest degree—a process that continues throughout life until its final moments—proper study bring one close to the higher forces that promote understanding of the most complex. There is no limit to our understanding."
~ T.K.V. Desikachar
Self-study is a wonderful practice for discovering and observing the inner-workings of the mind. By becoming aware of how the mind reacts to certain experiences, you can notice what situations trigger anger, sadness, and joy. Becoming aware of your tendencies really is the first step. In order to know how to change, one must know what needs to be changed. This can happen throughout the day and it can also happen during meditation.
I've heard so many people say, "I'm not good at meditation because my mind is too busy." Noticing that the mind is busy, is actually a perfect place to begin. Meditation on the tendencies of the mind is not meant to be something that you perfect in the first five minutes. In fact, the practice of meditation is designed to be an ongoing. It allows you to continually observe the tendencies and fluctuations of the mind. In the beginning, learning how to be with the busy-ness of the mind, is the practice. Once you know where you are starting, you can then grow from there as you unravel the roots of tension and unhealthy patterning to experience deeper and hopefully quieter mediations.
In addition to meditation, you can also engage in self-reflective practices such as writing, inner spiritual work, and reading transformational texts. With so many books out there on yoga, you have an endless supply of yogic wisdom at your fingertips. With this, you might, choose one text that is speaking to you right now and take time to not just read the book, but dialogue with it. What I mean is that in the service of svadhaya, self-study through the reading of texts, isn't merely the taking in of what has been written. Rather it is a dialogue with the written word through reflection and contemplation of the deeper meaning or what is being explored in the text.
For example, you could spend the entire month focusing on one yoga sutra, exploring how the sutra plays out in your daily life and in your relationship with self and others. The goal is not to read as many words as you possibly fit in, but instead to nourish yourself with a deeper sense of wholeness and connection to how you create meaning in your life.
So whether you meditate on the busy-ness of your mind or sit in meditative bliss, read the whole Mahabharata or one line of the Bhagavad Gita, the practice of self-study and inner-reflection can provide you with a mirror into the greatest depths of your being and understanding of your life in this world.