In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, we are given the 8 Limbs of Yoga as a guide and a philosophy to our yoga practice.
The second limb is called the Niyamas or personal observances, rules or laws. The Niyamas take us into a deeper level of exploration of ourselves. Let’s take a closer look.
- Saucha – Purity, Cleanliness
- Santosa – Contentment
- Tapas – Discipline
- Svadhyaya – Self-Study
- Ishvara Pranidhana — Surrender
1. Niyama – Saucha – Purity
Saucha is the practice of purity and cleanliness. When our thoughts and mind are clean, we have clarity and less clutter in our world.
Start with simple daily actions: clean yourself, eat nutritionally rich foods, clean your house, use kind words, do not swear, do not multi-task, keep order to your world inside and out.
Live in a non-toxic environment; completely digest mental toxins like unresolved anger, misperceptions, selfish attachments or vices.
As we practice Saucha, especially of the physical body, we see there is always a bit of dirt and uncleanliness. This allows us to take our focus off our physical body and to enrich our subtle body with spiritual studies and practices.
2. Niyama – Santosa – Contentment
Santosa is experiencing the joy of contentment. It is accepting everything in your life exactly as it is, in this moment. When we master the art of feeling at ease and at peace with yourself, just as we are without going to the outside.
Contentment means neither to like nor dislike.
Santosa is not an accident or a blessing that is arbitrarily bestowed by a capricious Deity, God or Goddess. It is the outcome of cultivating and manifesting a vision of life filled with unity.
By embracing the space that we are in, we are content.
3. Niyama – Tapas – Discipline
Tapas is the commitment in making conscious choices towards your truest Self in thoughts, words and actions.
The removal of impurities allows the body to function more efficiently. Whether our practice is on or off the yoga mat, we must utilize our core passions and self-discipline to resist any negative habits or influences that do not serve us.
As we dig deep into our inner fire to burn away impurities, we practice discipline, focus, clarity, balance and relaxation. This is Tapas.
4. Niyama – Svadhyaya – Self Study
Svadhyaya is reflection, inquiry, study of scriptures, philosophy, deities, Gods & Goddesses bringing study back to Self. Observing thy Self is taking a look in the mirror to acknowledge what you See.
The scriptures are filled with inspiring mentors who show you how to be a better You.
Some of these mentors can be Buddha, Hindu gods and goddesses like Shiva, Ganesh, Lakshmi, Kali, Durga or Jesus. They can be public figures of our time like Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Theresa or Gandhi. Also, artists, poets, musicians, writers and dancers.
Intentional self-awareness includes accepting limitations and flaws.
Svadhyaya teaches us to be centered and non-reactive to dualities and to mindfully burn out unwanted and self-destructive tendencies, while simultaneously celebrating our gracious spirits. Celebrate and be You.
5. Niyama – Ishvara Pranidhana – Surrender
The Sanskrit word Ishvara translates to Supreme Being, God, Brahman or True Self. The Sanskrit word Pranidhana translates to fixed, dedicated or devoted. Ishvara Pranidhana is to devote or surrender to a higher power of our choice.
Is it religion? I do not think it is. I feel this Sutra and all of yoga is a practice based in love, self-care, service, releasing and unfolding all for the greater good. I feel we must take care of our containers, bodies and minds, to allow for our spirit to be filled with love to share our gifts and abundance with others.
Ishvara Pranidhana guides us from discomfort to comfort as we surrender to what we believe in, the source that serves each of us personally. With faith, trust and devotion we follow our paths.
Do you practice the Yamas? How can you apply the Yamas moving forward?
Tell us in the comments.