We hope you enjoyed reading our first post about the first limb of yoga, the Yamas. In this post we’ll give you a brief understanding into the second limb of yoga, according to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. The niyamas are like internal yamas, where yamas focus on how to ethically behave towards others, while niyamas focus on how to observe and take care of ourselves.
To live according the yogic-way, it is our duty and responsibility to take time and effort in maintaining our bodies, breath, heart and mind. Taking good care of ourselves throughout our lifetime enables us to avoid much pain. A healthy body, mind and heart is what is needed to access our divine inner light. By treating ourselves with care, we can make changes to our lives that will add to our happiness and contentment.
Sauca is the personal practice of maintaining the body and heart-mind clean. The physical body is purified by means of asana, the breath through pranayama and the heart-mind through all 8 limbs of yoga. As well, keeping clean is also something that must be kept in moderation. An overly neat and clean area can stifle creativity. Even in the sense “coming clean” by admitting something that you have been holding in, is another form of Sauca. Expressing pent up feelings or even mourning for our loved ones is a way of cleansing our heart-mind. Outer and inner cleanliness are important for maintaining not only our health, but also our sanity.
Santosha is being grateful for what we have and being content with who we are and where we are in life. It is when you are satisfied with whatever you are doing and knowing that like all things, will end and change but that our divine inner light is always present. We have to accept ourselves in all aspects of our lives, but it is when we conform to what other expect of us that we end up being discontent with what we have. We must be true to ourselves. Many times we judge ourselves and compare our lives and progress with others. This creates a sense of unhappiness, but by understanding that every person is on their own journey with their own ups and downs, we can avoid disappointment. A good way to practice santosha is to just simply shift our mindset. Changing our mindset to that of being grateful for all that we have, we nourish ourselves. Like how food nourishes our bodies, being grateful nourishes our heart and mind.
TAPAS: Practice causing positive change
Tapas traditionally translates to ‘discipline’ or ‘austerity’. The root word of Tapas is “tap” which means ‘to burn’ or ‘to heat’. Heat can arise in a form of exercise such as asana practice, breaking an old habit or even changing your direction in life. This heat produced from practicing tapas burns away physical, mental and emotional impurities, which create a positive change towards greatness. Stagnation only occurs when we behave in a habitual manner, therefore a healthy change is always necessary in order for progress to occur. You need discipline and effort in order to practice tapas.
One of the first steps to self-improvement is to look at ourselves honestly and objectively. This is what svadhyaya is, observing ourselves in action. Being aware of who we are, how we are and of the world around us is important. Observing yourself as if you were watching someone else is a great way to practice this niyama. Observe the way you speak to friends and family, the way you react in certain situations, even the way you hold yourself when sitting or standing. All of these actions tell a story of who and how you are. Observing yourself without judgement gives you the power to convert old or harmful behavior into new and helpful action.
ISVARA PRANIDHANA: Devotion to a higher power
Isvara translates as “Supreme Being” or “True Self” and Pranidhana translates to ‘fixing’. In this niyama, we are advised to surrender to this Supreme Being which essentially means to have a deep and trusting relationship with the universe. When we have faith in a higher power, we accept that whatever happens is exactly what is meant to happen, even if it doesn’t match with what we expect. If we can let go of our attachments and expectations, we can free ourselves from potential disappointment, from suffering. We must trust in our intuition and have the courage to express ourselves for who we are, in all its beautiful imperfections, which will ultimately lead us to freedom. Isvara, the source of knowledge, exists for us to learn from and aspire to.
Take your time and soak the knowledge in. We hope you can learn from these niyamas and slowly apply them into your life. The sutras are meant to lead us to paths of greater happiness and fulfillment. We can learn so much from the Sutras of Patanjali, so stay tuned for our next ‘Philosophy of Yoga’ post! <3