Niyamas: The Second Limb of Yoga
Embracing Harmony, Balance & Surrender
The 5 Niyamas are often translated as “internal observances.” Niyama typically refers to the more subtle, constructive actions one takes in cultivating the practice of yoga and deepening the spiritual connection within. When difficulties are presented along our path, in the form of circumstance or people, we may choose to become agitated, frustrated, anxious - we are drawn away from our peaceful centers. But this is always a choice - because the calm, balanced, still center of our nature is unwavering. Niyamas are tools we can bring into our daily lives to encourage harmony, and to help us choose between pain and peace.
- Sauca – classically translated as “purity.” Sauca refers to cleanliness and strengthening of both the internal and external body. This tool encourages simplicity, purity and refinement of the world. Sauca put into into action: caring for our bodies, purifying our thoughts, and refine our actions to all support a simpler, more gratifying life. The cleansing of internal dimensions of thought and emotion is an important aspect of sauca - it is a tool to uproot negative patterns that have grown in the subconscious.
- Santosha - classically translated as “contentment.” Santosha is not a blind acceptance of the way things are without the motivation to improve the circumstances - it is not complacency, but a tool to find freedom from the dictatorship of mood. It is about finding gratitude while still pressing forward. Santosha is a tool to apply deep mindfulness to our situation and move towards balance rather than emotionally/egotistically fueled reactiveness.
- Tapas - classically translated as “ignited purifying flame.” Tapas is a burning effort of passion, spiritual intensity, and sincerity. Tapas is the transformation of passion into action. It is using our full, sincere effort and willpower to be 100% present and pure in our actions.
- Svadyaya - classically translated as “self- study.” Svadyaya emphasizes the importance of spiritual reflection and passionate self-inquiry . When we start to observe ourselves honestly, 2 we will see habitual patterns. These patterns are when the ego/emotion machine is running the show and our true selves are on auto-pilot. Self-study encourages us to see our experiences and all people as mirrors which helps us to discover something honest about ourselves.
- Ishvarapranidhana - classically translated as “dedication/surrender to the master.” Whether your path includes God, Divinity, Nature, The Universe, The Great Soul, The Self, or any version of an all pervasive energy… Ishvarapranidhana is whole-hearted devotion to that entity. This devotion cannot be fabricated or faked. True Love must be present. It opens us up to the possibility of surrendering a tight grasp of control and opening up to what lies ahead of us.
The Yamas and Niyamas work closely together. With the application of both limbs, Yoga takes on its true significance. The power of transformation and growth is abundant in these first limbs. There is always more work to be done, depth to be explored, and layers to be uncovered with the Yamas and Niyamas.