NIYAMAS – Personal Qualities that Support Life and Yoga Practice

Compared to the Yamas, the Niyamas are more PERSONAL AND INTIMATE. They relate to how we interact with ourselves.

When we observe the Niyamas, we harness the energy generated from our practice and cultivation of the Yamas. They help us create and maintain a positive environment in which to grow. There are five Niyamas:

Saucha: Purity, Cleanliness, Simplicity
Saucha has both an inner and an outer aspect. Simplifying life and maintaining the purity of the body and a clear and orderly environment would be the outer side of it. Inner cleanliness has as much to do with the healthy, free functioning of our bodily organs as with the clarity of our mind. The practice of asana and pranayama is essential for the inner aspect of Saucha.

Jihva Moola Dhauti
The mouth is considered in yogic anatomy to be the gateway to the body, so it is important to clean it in the morning, and tongue-cleansing is an essential part of a yogi’s morning routine. The coating on the tongue has the impurities rejected by the body during the night that can act as a breeding ground for bacteria. You can use a tongue scrapper or simply a tea spoon to gently scrape the surface of your tongue. Then rinse your mouth with salty water. You may want to try this during the duration of the Teacher Training, and check the results at the end.

Santosha: Contentment, Equanimity, Modesty
The real meaning of Santosha is to accept what has happened and make the best out of everything. Instead of complaining about things that go wrong, we can accept what has happened and learn from it. It is the practice of choosing love over fear and following the adage “Accept that which we cannot change, change what we can, and have the wisdom to know the difference.” This includes analysing discontent and considering its source.

Recipe for Strength
Think of a difficult situation in which the outcome was not what you expected or needed. To deal with and bounce back from it, imagine how you can cultivate Santosha (contentment with what is) in your everyday life.

Tapas: Austerity, Discipline
Tapas can be defined as a virtuous circle of inner fire created in practice that furthers our resolve to practice more. Also, as the willingness to do what is necessary to reach a goal with discipline and the watchful effort to maintain our yogic practice. Here repetition is the basic support for that practice. As our awareness explores repetition, experience accumulates, and it will be turned little by little into knowledge leading to growth. The discipline that is born from repetition allows us to build up and regulate our practice.

Svadyaya: Study of Self and Scriptures
Svadyaya is often understood as the study of yoga texts as soul food. We cannot always just sit down and contemplate things, we need reference points, and reading the scriptures we can find out about a prophet, saint or guru and draw inspiration from them. Svadyaya is essentially a practice of self-observation (especially of that space between stimulus and response), and can be done also through self-reflective activities such as painting or running. This self-observation also allows us to develop a conscious purpose and to have a more directive will.

Pranayama exercise
Breath evenly observing the space between the out breath and the in breath, and also the space between the in breath and the out breath.

Ishvara Pranidhana: Surrendering to the Divine
It means to “lay all your actions at the feet of God”; to surrender to a principle larger than our individual identity. The concept of Ishvara Pranidhana encapsulates our relationship to the divine energy of the Universe. Spirituality can be in many things: in reading poetry, in listening to music, dancing, walking our dog… We can find our own expression of surrendering to Spirit and celebration of this divine energy. Forward-bending poses like Janusirsasana (Head to Knee Pose) induce introspection, and you can consciously surrender yourself to a higher power while in the pose. This is the highest attitude we aim for in yoga: Ishvara Pranidhana. As you do this, repeat to yourself: “I relax into happiness”.

Journaling Question:
Recall a situation in which you had to trust in a higher force.

Transference of Merit
May the merit gained
In my acting thus
Go to the alleviation
of the suffering of all beings.
My personality throughout my existences,
My possessions,
And my merit in all three ways, [body, speech, and mind] I give up without regard to myself
For the benefit of all beings.
Just as the earth and other elements
Are serviceable in many ways
To the infinite number of beings
Inhabiting limitless space;
So may I become
That which maintains all beings
Situated throughout space,
So long as all have not attained
To peace