The Niyamas Today
The Yoga Sutras state the 8 limbs of Yoga. Most of us start with or only practice numbers three and four. You may find like most that after a while the physical practice leads to a linking of the other six in your daily life. The limbs are as follows:
- Yama “Morals”
- Niyama “Ethics or rules”
- Asana “Postures”
- Pranayama “Breathing”
- Pratyahara “Withdrawal of the senses”
- Dharana “Concentration”
- Dhyana “Meditation”
- Samadhi “Nirvana”
As I did with the yamas in Part one, I would like to take a second to dive into the five Niyamas. Once again these come from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. This book was written so long ago and it still resonates. I am writing from my own personal experience and definitions of these terms. So please feel free to have a different opinion. Even I may have one someday. The greatest thing about the Sutras is that if you read them again and again throughout your life, you find new meaning each time. Niyama means more or less “rules” or “laws”. I like to think of it as a way to use discipline in action and bring about a positive and pure attitude towards ourselves. This is definitely a time for self restoration. The five Niyamas are as follows:
- Saucha “Purity/ cleanliness”
- Santosha “Appreciation”
- Tapas “To burn”
- Swadyaya “Self-Reflection”
- Ishvarapranidhana “Humble Acceptance”
Saucha means cleanliness…and yes this does mean showering and brushing your teeth. Your body is your temple after all. This in yoga means being showered before you practice. You don’t want to sweat and practice in your own filth. Be respectful to yourself and take care of your body. Also, this cleanliness means being clean of bad habits and negative feeling and emotional ties.
Santosha or appreciation is vital to our overall well being. Being thankful for what we have, but also what we don’t have…Now this doesn’t mean settling and being so passive that we don’t strive or think we deserve more. It means to me that in the meantime while you work for more you stay positive, and know that you have all you need at this moment and that it is up to you to make the best of it.
Tapas is the most moving to me…To burn…seems brutal almost right? But it is beautiful…it takes persistence, dedication, discipline. It means working towards and not expecting everything to come right away. Pattabi Jois says yoga is “99% practice and 1% theory” he also says “Practice and all is coming”. So stick with it! Burn through your old perceptions clean that foggy mirror you are looking through every day and see the life and person you are meant to be start to shine through! Face yourself and your fears, break your bad habits and unloving thoughts of yourself…do work. The benefits will come and you will be gracious.
Swadyaya is a practice of self discovery and reflection. Just like you may have gone through years of school to become an expert in your field…you need to take possibly years to study and know yourself. You have to learn yourself! At first it seems selfish to take so much time to introvert…especially if you are typically extroverted. I found it difficult to turn in and be quit and just listen. It is scary, do I really want to know what’s in there? If you ever want to be truly happy though, you have to figure out what exactly makes you happy in the first place. You may come up with some surprises, maybe change career paths, lose friends or relationships, and gain ones you never thought you would. This might be the hardest thing you do. You may worry what other people will think of you if this is what you do or how you feel…Let go of the doubt and worry. You are not here to do what others want you to do. If they truly care for you they will be encouraging (maybe not at first). So take a chance to get to know this magnificent strong person that has been in hiding…YOU!
Ishvarapranidhana is one that may take many forms…it is that path or the other that leads you to that same mountain top. One thing I love about yoga is that it is all accepting…There is no right or wrong religious views. Your yoga beings you closer to your belief no matter what it is! So just be humble and know that you are not the absolute…an all-knowing exists. The Sutras are great because no one God is named, it is up to you. You may honor an ideal or a God, or 10 Gods or deities. Whatever it is, have full faith and trust that you are a part of something bigger. It is around you and within you. I practice and teach next to Hindu, Buddhist, Catholic, and all the unsure people of the world. They are all special and I see myself in all of them. I accept and appreciate them for their own personal belief and the strength to use their yoga to keep their belief strong and find the unknown and the truth that is within through their practice.
I will write the last part soon which will include the other 6 limbs. Please give feedback. Which of these resonate with you? What are working towards? Discovering? Like I said You can read the Sutras over and over and at each stage in your life something different then the last time will resonate and be of importance or more clear than the last time.