Yoga is not only about the Asana practice; in fact “Asanas” come third in the eight-limbed path of Yoga as described by Patanjali after “Yamas” or abstinences and “Niyamas” or observances. In today’s article, we will explore the second limb of yoga; Niyama.
Niyama is the Sanskrit term for a duty or observance recommended by yogic philosophy and teaching as part of the path of yoga. In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, he outlines five niyamas as part of the second limb of yoga.
These niyamas are all practices that can be considered inner observances. They are a way of applying the ethical codes of yoga to the student’s own mind, body and spirit, helping to create a positive environment internally.
Practising the niyamas is said to give the yogi the inner strength, clarity and discipline that he/she needs in order to progress on his/her spiritual journey.
The five niyamas are listed as follows:
Saucha: purification, cleanliness and clarity of mind, communication and physical body. This recognizes that the yogi's external environment affects his/her inner purity. Practices such as meditation can help to cultivate the cleanliness of mind specified by saucha.
Santosha: contentment and acceptance of the world, oneself and circumstances exactly as they are. This means letting go of cravings for what one doesn't have. Doing this is said to end one's suffering.
Tapas: asceticism or intense self-discipline and willpower, even through discomfort. This recognizes the need to sometimes do what is difficult or unpleasant in order to have a positive effect on one's life and existence.
Svadhyaha: study of the self, and the practice of self-reflection. This may include using the scriptures or sacred texts as a tool for introspection. It means seeing who one is in the moment as well as exploring one's connection with the Divine.
Ishvara Pranidhana: surrender to and contemplation of the Divine or Supreme Being. This includes dedicating and devoting one's work to a higher power and dissolving ego-focused desires.