The Yoga of Relationships Part Two: The Niyama

Caroline Layzell
The Yoga of Relationships Part Two: The Niyama

Now that you have a solid grip on the “yama” from last weeks article, let’s take a look at the “niyama,” which are the second limb of the path of yoga created by the inimitable Patanjali, who shared them as a roadmap for yogis everywhere to be able to reach the summit of human experience.

Niyama

The niyama are concerned with how we use our energy in our relationships towards ourselves, offering us practical guidelines for becoming the best version of ourselves.

The Yoga Sutra identify the five niyama as:

  • Saucha – Cleanliness
  • Santosa – Contentment
  • Tapas – Austerity
  • Svadhayaya – Self-Study
  • Isvara Pranidhana – Devotion to God

The Yoga of Relationships

1. Cleanliness

Saucha reminds us to take care of both our physical body and our mind by coming to our yoga mats regularly to practice, speaking the truth compassionately, and consuming healthy, natural, and nourishing foods. After all, our body is our temple, right?

Another key aspect of this niyama is the practice of purity in thought, word, and action: a practice in making mindful choices along your journey.

Applying this your relationships:

Saucha asks us to practice mindfulness, compassion, and self-love, to be present in the moment to experience the emotions that come and go with each breath.

Ask yourself, “What stains my mind?” Notice if it is anger, violence, jealousy, or self-doubt, sit with these emotions—knowing them, listening to them, feeling them—then let them float away. Such emotions can be damaging to our relationships, particularly if we tend to project them onto those closest to us.

Saucha asks that we surround ourselves only with people and environments that are pure and that help us grow. Sometimes this means being honest with ourselves and moving away from unhealthy relationships and friendships as necessary.

2. Contentment

This is the ultimate rule to truly living in the moment. Santosa offers us the opportunity to practice letting go of the need to plan ahead, and to enjoy every moment as it arrives.

We spend huge amounts of time worrying about what comes next. By setting a daily intention of gratitude for the wonderful gifts that you already have in life, you’re guiding yourself into a life of contentment.

Applying this to your relationships:

Many of us are guilty of always looking to the future for our happiness. For instance,many of us believe that if only we were in a relationship or had a certain thing we wanted, things would be better, and by doing so, we totally deny ourselves the ability to create our own happiness, right now.

Santosa asks us to be content in ourselves, our own growth, and our own journey. Being mindful of the present moment can help bring true contentment, which in turn brings happiness. With happiness comes everything else. Remember, happiness is inside job!

3. Austerity

The Sanskrit word “tap” means to burn, so “tapas” is often referred to as heat or discipline.

Tapas is the disciplined practice of controlling our energies toward an intentional goal that makes us shine. When we are intentional with our thoughts, actions, and words, we burn away bad thoughts and habits that deter us from being the very best that we can be.

Tapas comes from being able to come to your yoga mat every single day, jump out of bed when the alarm clock rings at crazy o’clock, and show up even when the going gets tough.

Applying this to your relationships:

Honest communication forms the basis of any healthy relationship. Tapas asks that you be true to yourself—by showing up and being present, being what you say you’ll be, doing what you say you’ll do, and not allowing space for deception or mistrust.

When the going gets tough, use this heat to motivate yourself and your partner toward growth (or just yourself if you’re a single yogi).

4. Self-Study

Svadhyaya encompasses mindfulness and self-reflection, the journey of self-study and self-discovery. Life gives us endless opportunities to learn about ourselves. Our flaws and weaknesses allow us to grow, and our mistakes allow us to learn.

Once we truly know ourselves, the better we become at controlling our actions, thoughts, and emotions—allowing our false beliefs to be loved away. Svadhyaya also extends to formal and informal studies for the purpose of self-improvement (such as reading this article!).

Applying this to your relationships:

Spend time to get to know yourself, and prioritise learning about what serves you best. All too often in life we change our plans, our goals, our dreams, either for someone else or for something else.

Have a relationship with yourself and become the most authentic version of you before inviting someone else into your world. Only upon this journey into yourself can you move forward to become the person you were intended to be.

5. Devotion to God

This niyama encourages us to dedicate our energy and devotion toward the idea of something bigger than us, the universe, or maybe even ourselves. Patanjali never named a particular God in the Yoga Sutra, so make your choice accordingly.

Isvara Pranidhana reminds you that this higher force is all around you as well as within you, and is a way to focus our meditation and realize that we are all one.

Applying this to your relationships:

Surrendering to this devotion lets us connect with our purest self. Acknowledging the universe lets us acknowledge how we’re all connected, biologically and atomically. In this place, love has space to take root, grow, and be shared, helping us move away from selfish behaviors.

The five niyama fosters love and honesty, as well as a yearning for knowledge, growth, and happiness within us, leading us closer to living our fullest life while being our most authentic, most fabulous selves!