Now that we’ve gone through the Yamas, I want to now tell you about the ‘second limb’ in the yoga sutra as described by Patanjali – the Niyamas.
What is Niyama?
More prescriptive than the introspective Yamas, Niyamas serve as codes of ethics or practical guidelines to achieve yoga. Important to remember, yoga is both a practice and a state. We incorporate the practice of the niyamas as we practice yoga; at the same time, a consistent relationship with the niyamas helps us achieve yoga. The niyamas include:
Often described as cleanliness, our understanding of saucha must compromise our external, internal, and consumptive environments. A clean house with dirty thoughts does no one any good! Simply, we need practice being clear in environments, thought, and behavior; remembering, cleanliness is not only a way of relating to how things physically are but also a practice in clarity and mindful choices. Ask yourself: How do my actions and surroundings help me keep a clean head?
Santosha is one of the more misappropriated niyamas, as many people believe it to be ‘happiness’. Far more reaching than happiness, santosha describes a state of ‘contentment’ where we learn to recognize that we do not require anything more than we already have. In other words, santosha is a practice of relating to ourselves and our lives with complete acceptance. It’s saying to us- ‘Yes. I can work with this. Joy can grow here.’
Relating to heat, I like to think of tapas as a disciplined practice of controlling our fire (or energies) towards an intentional, self-reflective aim. We use this fire to light ourselves up, not to burn ourselves out! I often remind students, tapas is a dedicated fieriness, not a wild-fire! When we are intentional with our thoughts and actions, and dedicated with our desire to overcome, then we can burn away ignorance and maladaptive thoughts and habit patterns. This is the value of tapas; Tapas teaches us to control our energies so that we shine!
Syadhyaya is (as my sweetie likes to say) being with yourself. If we want to feel a connection to ourselves as divinity, we need to learn who we are and what false beliefs need to be loved away. When practicing syadhyaya, we are encouraged to also study texts that assist in self-knowledge. Sorry Real Housewives! Syadhyaya is a practice of self-understanding ourselves so much that we can only respond with love!
Devotion as surrender. We practice this niyama as a means to understand that in devotion, we contact our loveliest (or pure) self. Ishvarapranidhana requires both a surrender to and love for the self and world as divine. And, through the practice of this teaching, we learn to wake up to the love that is us. The love that is EVERBODY. If yoga is oneness, ishvarapranidhana helps us connect with how this is true.
There you have it! I hope you guys enjoyed and learned something, and also hopefully it encourages you to go beyond asana practice (though awesome as it is) – there’s so much more to yoga you can learn and love!
Which of the Niyamas struck a chord with you? Let us know! :)