The Niyamas, the second limb of the eightfold path of yoga, are the practice of cultivating this love.
The Niyamas follow the Yamas – which are five moral commandments to live harmoniously within society. There are both five Yamas and five Niyamas. While the yamas focus on external behaviors, the niyamas bring attention to our internal behaviors specifically regarding our personal growth and development. The Niyamas can also be described as:
- Character building
- Working with oneself
- Taking in only pure impressions (music, food, books, TV, people)
- Getting to your mat everyday
- Keeping good company and community
Below are the five Niyamas and what each encompasses:
Sauca · Purity
This first Niyama is the foundation for the ones to come. Just like a recipe, we must use quality ingredients to produce a delicious outcome. Think of our lives as a recipe requiring wholesome, natural, PURE ingredients. Begin to notice what and who is involved in your day to day and evaluate if these aspects bring positivity, negativity, or are just plain useless.
Once you become present with your day to day, decide what can be expanded upon and what can be shed? Make it a goal to only digest pure impressions throughout the day. Impressions can be anything – from the conversations we partake in, to the food we consume, to the material we read. For example, if purchasing a tabloid magazine has been a routine, try shedding this habit for an educational, quality piece. Or if eating unhealthy food is a habit, begin to steer your eating selection towards natural, healthy, and delicious options. On a more personable level, notice the company you keep. Do your peers support and uplift you while living a wholesome life too? If the answer is yes, amazing! If you’re not sure, evaluate and then create change. Move towards purity and away from artificial.
Santosa · Contentment
Now that the foundation has been poured, it’s time to become content with what’s been created. All too often we are consumed with the next best thing, never giving attention to the present moment. Santosa, the 2nd Niyama, is to be satisfied with the situation. Satisfaction comes from the wholesome base that’s been created:
- Enough energy in the body
- Loving relationships
- Quality company or community
- Wholesome food
- A noncompetitive outlook
Tapas · Heat · Discipline
The 3rd Niyama is DOING THE WORK! This is where we tap into self-discipline and practice it day in and day out. It involves heat, stoking our inner fire, creating friction, and practicing austerity. Tapas is manifested by doing the following:
- Staying present both on an off the yoga mat
- For practicing yogis, a daily practice whether it’s two or 90 minutes
- When practicing yoga, creating deep penetrating heat which in turn changes our deep internal grooves (habits)
- Checking in everyday with yourself and doing something to encourage growth
Svadhyaya · Self – Study
The life recipe we’ve been building is almost complete. The foundation has been laid, we are satisfied, and self-discipline is being practiced. Now it’s time for reflection. Svadyaya is self-study of our lives and how we treat each moment. The 4th Niyama is best practiced by doing the following:
- Always having a beginner’s mind
- Committing to the role of a life long student
- Noticing the effects of our practices (spiritual, mental, yoga)
- Recognizing our habits and adjusting them to find more balance
- Noticing deep fears that hold us back from achieving goals & dreams
Ishvara Pranidhana · Higher Power
The last Niyama, Ishvara Pranidhana, is surrender to a higher power, any power or belief. It is to place your faith in something bigger than you, allowing the Universe take it’s natural course, letting go completely. This is the most challenging and liberating step of all five. As with everything in yoga – take baby steps, recognize where change can occur, and be patient with the process because life is a beautiful opportunity to cherish each and every day!