The 8 Limbs of Yoga :Part 2


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:

  1. Yama “Morals”
  2. Niyama “Ethics or rules”
  3. Asana “Postures”
  4. Pranayama “Breathing”
  5. Pratyahara “Withdrawal of the senses”
  6. Dharana “Concentration”
  7. Dhyana “Meditation”
  8. 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:

  1. Saucha “Purity/ cleanliness”
  2. Santosha “Appreciation”
  3. Tapas “To burn”
  4. Swadyaya “Self-Reflection”
  5. 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.

Namaste everyone,

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.

13 responses to “The 8 Limbs of Yoga :Part 2

  1. If one were interested in beginning to practice yoga which form would you recommend? I have done very little research but read some on Kriya yoga that seemed to suggest that it was the best choice as far as the amount of time needed for practice to attain positive results. Is Kriya yoga the form that Paramhansa Yogananda (Autobiography of a Yogi) practiced and taught?
    Thank you,

  2. I was thinking when I was reading your reflection of Saucha, that this might also include energetic cleanliness. I don’t often have time to shower before my morning practice (I usually do it afterwards actually), but I ALWAYS smudge the room and my body with incense or sage. I feel that this “cleanses” my body of negative energy and puts my in the right positive mindset to begin my practice.

  3. The message of Tapas IS powerful. I love the quote you used. It is definitely about the practice! I also think of a candle, a controlled burn. If you burn out of control you waste your energy and burn out too quickly. Yoga, because it is structured and yet fluid, helps me use my inner fire wisely and efficiently. Thanks for the insights on Tapas!

  4. Sara, is there a specific translation of the Sutras you recommend? Please post a link to amazon if there is! I’d love to have the copy that resonates with you the most because I love the way you communicate yoga philosophy!

  5. Hey Kaycie, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by author Swami Satchidananda is a great version. It give you all the sutras in sanskrit and then breaks them down for you in english, followed by a passage about what it means and also sometimes a story 🙂 As for you Jerry, it is tricky to tell someone where to start on their journey with yoga…It depends on what resonates with you. My ayurvedic Dosha leans more towards pitta (competitive and fiery) so I tend to like a more physical practice like Ashtanga or some form of power that I can still consider a “moving meditation”. I have learned lately the heated classes such as bikram are not for me because of my fiery nature but these classes are very affective for others. Iyengar is a great alignment based yoga so it seems much safer for beginners, but for me it’s sometimes too much body awareness not enough mind awareness for me, but this is just my opinion…Sivananda is a great mix of physical and spiritual there is usually some chanting and breath work mixed into the physical practice. Satyananda yoga is a great self awareness practice and unlike Sivananda which is a set series (so is bikram and ashtanga) you try different poses each time to help energy blockages. If you go to a Hatha Yoga class (meaning sun and moon) that is more general yoga, all of the above are forms of hatha so it is usually some basic poses and breath work. It is important too to find a good teacher you connect with. You could love a style of yoga and not even know it if you take a class by a teacher that turns you off or makes you feel out of place or uncomfortable. Your teacher should be encouraging and kind, but ultimately it is up to you find what you need from your practice we as teachers are only here to guide you on this journey. Do some research and if you take any classes I would love to here about your experience so please share!!

    Sara D.

  6. dghrtysr,
    I purchased a yoga dvd years ago that was for “Beginners”. After twenty minutes of “Beginners” yoga I was exhausted! I’m looking for the yoga style that comes with an “easy button.” I am afraid you are going to inform me that no such style exists. Thank you for your considerate reply. It is appreciated.

    • Jerry, I’m not a yoga teacher, but there are definitely gentle forms of yoga. My dad has severe rheumatoid arthritis and I’ve finally talked him into trying to incorporate a few poses into his daily routine. One such gentle, restorative pose is called Legs Up the Wall. You literally lay on your back, put your butt up against the wall and elevate your feet. My yoga teacher says that 10 minutes a day can do wonders for your heart. it also reduces swelling in the lower regions of the body. It’ just a great way to mix things up a bit! There are other gentle “yin” poses you could try. I personally LOVE as a resource. They have articles on everything and detailed pictures and descriptions of postures and their health benefits. One pose a day could keep the doctor away!

  7. Thanks kaycie, good input. And yes dvd’s especially are tricky. The hardest class can be modified for anyone IF there is a teacher there. Doing what is on a dvd can be dangerous, especially as a beginner because you are not sure quite yet what works for you and you are not yet aware of your body fully, which can lead to injury or misplaced energy. The best advice I can give you is google local studios in your area and call or stop by. They will always be able to tell you what classes to begin with and having a teacher there is the best way to learn because they will always give you the best modifications for where you are and what level you are at in your practice. IF you have no local studios you can you tube some “gentle” or “yin” classes for a good slow start. However be mindful an hour long yin class may be only 5 poses that you hold for 10 minutes each, which seems less difficult right? not always….a lot of yin poses open heart and hips which if you are really tight can seem more difficult than balancing or other tricky poses, so always listen to your body.A great way to bring yoga into your life even would be to simply do sun salutations in the morning for about 15 minutes. Take some time at the end to sit up nice and tall and just focus on your breath. Then lie down for at least seven minutes for savasana at the end of your practice. Start there and you can always add a pose at a time each week if you would like. Sun Salutations are a great way to start a connection between your breath and movement. It realigns the spine, calms the nervous system, and brings fresh oxygenated blood to all parts. It is best to do in the morning to get you energized for the day 🙂

  8. Kaycers,
    Thank you. Just need to get some stretching and into an exercise routine. “Just do it!” A decent health site is (Life Extension Foundation), there may be information there that could help. Also, from the Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine by Michael Murray, N.D. and Joseph Pizzorno, N.D.: “Diet has been strongly implicated in RA for many years, both in regard to cause and cure… Elimination of allergenic foods-significant benefit… A vegetarian diet has shown to produce significant benefits.. The importance of consuming a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables cannot be overstated.. Several natural compounds (e.g., curcumin, bromelain, and ginger) positive effects. DHEA (50-200 mg/day), flaxseed oil (1 tbsp./day), niacinimide (500 mg four times/day (check liver enzymes every 6 months)), pantothenic acid (500 mg four times / day), vitamins C (1-3 g per day divided doses) and E (400-800 IU/day)… and more. The book is published by

    • Oh Jerry…Thank you for the beautiful resources. I will share it with him, but my dad is so stubborn. Born and raised in the Midwest, son of a butcher…he eats meat, potatoes, corn and pre-packaged cookies. I snuck some milled flax seed into his diet and planted a garden with him in the hopes he would eat the produce with me (still crossing my fingers on that one…)
      Any tips on how to help support stubborn loved ones?

  9. Kaycers,
    I took DHEA every day for oh, twelve years @ 25 mg, sometimes 50 mg / day. These days I will take one 50 mg occasionally. I never had my blood DHEA level tested, which is recommended. He would feel the effects of a 50 mg tab fairly soon, probably within hours. This could, because he would feel the good difference, make him more amenable to other suggestions. Most men are low in DHEA (produced naturally by the adrenal gland) and supplementing gives one a greater sense of well-being along with other benefits. Life Extension Foundation ( would fill you in on DHEA.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s