Have you heard about the Niyamas?
We’ve been talking about the Yamas, the first of the “8 Limbs Yoga’, which are more about how you interact with the world, the Niyamas refer to the principles directed towards ourselves – inner observances that are done without recruiting our egos need for praise. The Niyamas help us build character and nourish self-love, respect, confidence and happiness.
This is what is meant when you hear people say yoga becomes a way of life.
If you want to experience Yoga to its fullest, then consider the philosophical aspects of the Yamas & Niyamas which are part of the 8 limbs of yoga a system that guides you through life. Why??
Simply, because these ‘restraints’, or guidelines, can support you on and off the mat to live in peace & harmony with others, but most importantly with yourself.
The Niyamas offer us some personal principles or goals that we can work towards to live in peace with others and ourselves.
The second Niyama is defined in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras as contentment. It comes from an experience of acceptance—of life, of ourselves, and of whatever life has brought us.
The key is in practicing non-attachment (remember the Yamas?). And also gratitude.
To invite Santosha into your daily life, start by making the intention to appreciate yourself for what you are, how far you’ve come and all that you have to look forward to. Your body will thank you, when you let go of the ‘need’ to be more flexible, stronger, balanced or powerful, that power comes to find us in no time. Your mind will thank you because it means you stop chasing after a ‘thing’ (feeling, possessions, person…) and you can stay in the present, and appreciate the here and now.
The third Niyama is defined in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras as cultivating a sense of self-discipline, passion and courage in order to burn away ‘impurities’ physically, mentally and emotionally, and paving the way to our true greatness.
This “fiery discipline’ doesn’t mean you have to push yourself harder, in fact sometimes it means the opposite. Making the time to get on the mat and meditate, go outside for a walk, or any type of movement for just 10 minutes a day is part of this principle of discipline.
With it comes the aspect of inner wisdom that encourages us to practice even when we don’t feel like it, even though we know it makes us feel good! It helps us shift from a ‘dutiful’ practice to a devoted practice…for the love of it. For the love of ourselves.
The element of fire also holds within it the power of transformation – the kind that generally happens when we allow change to happen; stepping outside of our comfort zone and practising poses or experiencing life in areas we’re not confident with or maybe a little afraid of is when we begin to grow and learn about ourselves. If things are too easy all the time, we don’t tend to learn the life lessons we need to make us stronger and more rounded people.
The fourth Niyama is defined in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras as self-study. It means to ‘recollect’ or ‘remember’. This is an invitation to meditate, contemplate and reflect not the self. Your self.
It can be done through meditation, journaling, sitting quietly with your thoughts, or asking yourself important questions and waiting for an organic response. It can be done during a mindful activity, like during a yoga practice, a walk in nature, or reading a contemplative book.
We can’t know WHO we are unless we patiently and lovingly explore our own unique inner landscape.
Through the principle of Svadhyaya, we can renew our relationship with ourselves, find ways to declutter the mental noise, and detox some of those negative narratives that show up…because they are not our truth.
ISHVARA PRANIDHANA “self-surrender”
The fifth Niyama is the simple but profound wisdom of yielding to rather than opposing the flow of life. This 5th Niyama invites us to cultivate and devote ourselves towards a higher purpose and therefore, uniting us with our highest self.
When we surrender from our ego, we aren’t giving up our personalities, our expressions in the world. Rather we are surrendering from the beliefs that we aren’t worthy, that we aren’t lovable, that we aren’t enough…
So how do we practice ishvara pranidhana?
It starts by being of service, to yourself and those around you. Through small acts of kindness, compassion and gratitude, we expand our energy outwards instead of inwards. Where can you be of service in your life?
For us, it’s on the mats…we hope you will join us.