Last week we discussed the “Yamas” or “restraints”, aka what NOT to do when living a yogic life. This week we’re learning about the other side of that, the “Niyamas” or “observances” which are the second of the 8 Limbs of Yoga. These are the things that we SHOULD do as good yogis and good humans!
Some further definition, courtesy of yogabasics.com:
Saucha is purification. The practices of asana, pranayama and meditation cleanse and purify the body and mind, as well as strengthening their capacity to maintain a pure state of being. We must also consciously work at surrounding ourselves with a pure environment (including food, drink, friends, entertainment, home furnishings and transportation) to not add any external impurities back into our bodies or minds.
Samtosha (contentment) is not craving for what we do not have as well as not coveting the possessions of others.
Tapas (asceticism or “inner fire”) is a yogic practice of intense self-discipline and attainment of will power. Basically, Tapas is doing something you do not want to do that will have a positive effect on your life. When our will conflicts with the desire of our mind an internal “fire” is created which illuminates and burns up our mental and physical impurities. This inner fire can also be used as a source of spiritual energy.
Svadhyaya (self-study) is the ability to see our true divine nature through the contemplation of our life’s lessons and through the meditation on the truths revealed by seers and sages. Life presents an endless opportunity to learn about ourselves; our flaws and weaknesses give us the opportunity to grow and our mistakes allow us to learn.
Ishvara Pranidhana (devotion) is the dedication, devotion, and surrender of the fruits of one’s practice to a higher power. This Niyama fuses two common aspects of yoga within it: the devotion to something greater than the self and the selfless action of karma yoga.
So there you have it! Now you know both the Yamas and the Niyamas and can start bringing these restraints and observances into your life!