Moving forward into the second limb of the Eight Limbs of Yoga of Patanjali: The Niyamas.
Niyamas are generally described as observances or self-discipline and can also be seen as outwardly conduct guidelines. Let us briefly look into them individually.
Purity - Cleanliness
The word Saucha can be understood as Purity. Purity of our internal self and of the exterior, or of the body, mind and spirit.
Saucha can be pursued, for example, through:
Healthy and sattvic diet choices
Balanced use of the senses, especially not overusing them
Breathing pure air by spending time in Nature
Maintaining purity of speech (language we use, how we express ourselves, and by eliminating gossip!)
Removing negative thoughts and emotions
A purified body supports a purified mind and vice versa.
How often do we think that we will feel happy when the week is over, when we are on that vacation we have been waiting for, when we get that dream job, or when we get to buy that which we have been dying to have?
It seems that it’s only when we get what we want, during those moments that we are joyful, but then it wears off and we’re back at it again. Contentment may often seem like one of those things that we either have it or we don’t. For some people this just comes naturally, but contentment is also a practice, a practice of “appreciating”.
The first step is accepting ourselves, the way we are, what we have and start appreciating that. Letting go of the past, realizing we’re just a small piece in this vast creation and actually acknowledging the “simple” fact that we are alive. It might take time and effort, but these small steps ensure we are moving forward from a place of content rather from a place of scarcity, and always with a sense of gratitude.
Tapas : Burning effort or austerity
Remember that time when you woke up in the morning to start your day with your Yoga practices and somehow you didn’t feel like it? Even though you know how amazing it makes you feel, that specific time you weren’t really into it? But your inner wisdom roared loudly like a fiery passion and made you overcome that feeling! This could be called Tapas. The fire that drives us to do something we you don’t necessarily want to do, but we do it because we know it’s good for us.
The word Tapas comes from the root word Tap in Sanskrit, which means to burn. It’s like an exercise of will power, going beyond the desires of the moment, the deceiving chatter of our minds and gaining personal strength and letting the fire of tapas burn away impurities of the body, mind and emotions.
Svadhyaya: Study of Self
This Niyama is about cultivating inner awareness through the pursuit of self-knowledge and continuously seeking to learn actively through our life.
Not only we should be looking to draw wisdom from the spiritual texts, our guides and our teachers, but also start looking within, looking at our flaws, examine our actions and actually learn about ourselves.
This journey is an ongoing one, as we are far from knowing the absolute Truth. We need to stay humble and be always open to learn and evolve. Knowing where we are is always the best and only way to begin this journey.
Meditation and silence are great tools to start creating that little space where we can observe, study and get in touch with that essence.
Isvara Pranidhana: Surrender
This Niyama can be a tough one!
Some things in life are not in our hands, no matter what we do. It is important to have a certain faith or surrender to life, to the way things happen in existence. Whatever your faith, religion or beliefs may be, it is that letting go in trust of a higher power. Easy? Not for everyone! But it is such a beautiful experience! And this can come to our life with lots of practice.
I would like to invite you to join the following challenge.
For the next 30 days, pick one of these Niyamas, and to the best of capacity, try to make it into a living reality in your daily living. When we bring our continuous attention to a specific aspect in life, we actually see it evolve gradually and it starts affecting positively our experience of life.