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The 5 Niyamas of Yoga



Yoga is composed of 8 limbs to practice. Asanas, which is the physical practice, is the best known. Followed by Dhyana (meditation) and Pranayama (breath work). However, the other five limbs are more difficult to master. Yamas, discussed in a previous blog, provide us a moral social code of things we should not do. This week we look at Niyamas. These are self-disciplines and personal practices for individuals.


Niyamas, unlike Yamas are a list of things we should be doing in order to be better people. Niyamas are not done in the pursuit of recognition or praise, we live by them because we genuinely want to be good people that make the world better by using the five Niyamas.


1.Saucha:

Defined as cleanliness and purity

Saucha's principles are applied to body, mind, and speech. For some clarification, body is the space you inhabit both as your physical self and environment. It's all we can see and touch. It does involve tiding up but it involves not only the outer but inner body too; What are you putting in or on your body, are you eating processed foods instead of whole foods, are the products you are are using toxic? The mind refers to your inner world, and speech are what we say in terms of intention and effect. We have heard cleanliness is next to Godliness, in a way this is what Saucha means. By cleaning all that we see, touch, think, and say, we allow room for more positive things to come into our lives.


2.Santosa:

Defined as contentment, acceptance, and optimism

Here is the thing, we can't live with our lives with our heads in the sand pretending all is well to stay optimist, and here is where Santosa comes into practice. Santosa acknowledges that things may be less than ideal by being honest with yourself and accepting it. This a common practice in healing. With Santosa, we are grateful for what we have, while working towards what we want. We can look directly at situations without judgement and are able to be more open to let go. There are days we just don't feel our best, it's okay to own up to it and take things slower. With a more rested mindset, imagine how much better your mood will be and how you can project that on to the world.


3.Tapas:

Defined as discipline and persistence

No lie, there was a small disappoint in realizing this had nothing to do with Spanish food. That aside, this may be the most accessible of the Niyamas when you begin with small steps. Have you heard of Atomic Habits? It's an amazing best seller book. To summarize in two sentences, when we practice a small obtainable habits each day, we will eventually see enormous changes to our life and ourselves. The catch is that you have to be disciplined and commit to it. There are more nuances, but this is essentially what Atomic Habits are and what Tapas also is. Great athletes are not really more talented than anyone, but they know that they need to be consistent and practice hard. When they meet their goals, then they continue to raise the bar to be better. If you commit to five minutes of yoga each day, imagine what your practice will look like in a month.


4.Svadhyaya:

Defined as self-study and study of scared scripture

Traditionally, you take it upon yourself to study scripture and become an expert. Svadhyaya can also lead to knowing yourself better through mediatization and more self reflection. Another impetration is to take it upon yourself to hone a craft and become an expert. The example in Tapas about athletes is also a good illustration of Svadhyaya. The use of Tapas leads them to become experts in their field through discipline as they practice, they continue to learn and make adjustments. The key to this Niyama is to be open-minded and receptive to learning. No matter how well we know something, we are always students with room to grow.


5.Isvara Pranidhana:

Defined as devotion or surrender to God

Let's be clear. Yoga is not a religion, but sets of philosophies that take influence from religions. This Niyama also has a place for atheists. At the core Isvara Pranidhana is about a Divine principle that dwells in all humans. We all believe or want to believe that there is something greater than ourselves and feel a connection to that. What you call it is up to you. Faith is based on devotion and surrender.


Yoga is more than a physical exercise. In the practice of Yoga, we look at our inner selves and beyond to find resonating connections. The Niyamas are part of the powerful tools available to liberate your true essence and self. When we look at our daily lives, we can see how much of it would be essentially easier living by the Niyamas. We increase good habits, that lead to greater health and quality of life.

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