Part 2: The Niyamas
As discussed in the Introduction post, this series will explore the eight-fold path of yoga philosophy. So far we have discussed the definition of yoga, and the Yamas (codes of restraints / universal morality). Today we will explore the Niyamas (practices of self-training).
THE EIGHT LIMBS OF YOGA:
1. Yama : Universal morality
2. Niyama : Personal observances (today’s focus)
3. Asanas : Body postures
4. Pranayama : Breathing exercises, and control of prana
5. Pratyahara : Control of the senses
6. Dharana : Concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness
7. Dhyana : Devotion, Meditation on the Divine
8. Samadhi : Union with the Divine
What are the Niyamas?
The niyamas are practices of self-training. The yogis say that once the 5 Yamas are practiced regularly, we feel more open and alive. The days become easier, we have developed stronger self-esteem, and we have enhanced our relationships with those around us. Essentially, life is more enjoyable.
Consider the following when exploring your own emotions and way of being:
1. Purity (Shauca)
This refers to the cleansing of the body and mind, including your attitudes and actions.
There are so many simple ways to work towards purification. Exercise and release the toxins from your body. Journal out any bad emotions that you are feeling. Replace any negative thoughts with thoughts of love and gratitude.
2. Contentment (Santosha)
This is not something that can be sought – in fact, yogis say that all the things that we do to achieve fulfillment actually prevents us from real satisfaction and well-being. This is about learning contentment with what one currently has. Negative emotions surrounding this false path to satisfaction need to be released.
Take responsibility for any negative emotions that you are experiencing. Write down what is bothering you and choose to own this emotion as an extension of yourself. If this is too much, then simply accept the emotion and be ok with having experienced it. Express gratitude for the opportunity to experience contentment.
3. Self-discipline (Tapa)
The word “tapa” literally means “heat.” Essentially, this is anything that creates change. It is the destruction of mental impurities through the training of the senses.
Practice, practice, practice. Do your yoga practice consistently. Discipline yourself and through this discipline allow old, lazy, bad habits to be replaced. Pay attention to what and how you eat, when and where you move, and increase your reading and studying (expanding your mind).
4. Self-Study (Svadhyaya)
In order to create a better live for ourselves, we must be willing to take a look at what drives our behaviors, the root causes for our actions. This process allows us to release the false, limiting self-perception that our egos have imposed on us and instead recognize our true, Divine Selves.
Remember: the majority of what bothers you is about YOU. The majority of what bothers others has NOTHING to do with YOU. Begin noticing how often you blame others for how you feel or internalizing the actions of others. Practice taking responsibility for yourself and letting others be responsible for themselves.
5. Surrender (Ishvara Pranidhana)
Trust in the universe. Devote yourself to the Supreme Being (the universe). Surrender, and enjoy the ride!
Believe in something greater than yourself. Wake up every day with the attitude that you will open yourself up to the universe and its infinite love and blessings. Trust in the process and trust in yourself.
“The five points of yama, together with the five points of niyama, remind us of the Ten Commandments of the Christian and Jewish faiths, as well as of the ten virtues of Buddhism. In fact, there is no religion without these moral or ethical codes. All spiritual life should be based on these things. They are the foundation stones without which we can never build anything lasting. (127)”
– Swami Satchidananda, The Yoga Sutras
Skip ahead to the next post – What Is Yoga: Part 3 HERE