If you have been following along with me, you may have already read the post I wrote about the first limb of yoga, the yamas, and how they can be applied on the mat during asana practice.
Today’s post is about the second limb, the niyamas, or observances – the things we should practice. These observances are designed to prepare us to stop the fluctuations of our minds – the ultimate goal of yoga according to Patanjali’s sutras. Without further ado, here they are:
- Śauca (शौच): purity of mind, body and soul. This can mean many things to many people, including eating a clean diet and abstaining from toxins, practicing meditation, exercising to care for the body etc. Take a moment and consider what this might look like for you in your life.
- Santoṣa (सन्तोष): contentment with the present moment. This is critical to stilling the movement of the mind. If we are not content in the present, we will be constantly dwelling on the past or thinking of the future. This does not mean that everything needs to be perfect, just that we should look for contentment in each moment, knowing that it soon will pass into the next.
- Tapas (तपस): dedication to the practice. This one is fairly straightforward, and can include any practices that we partake in. Once we make a commitment to do something for our good or the good of others, we should stick with it. This may mean waking early to practice meditation each day consistently, even while on vacation, or practicing asana each night to calm the mind before sleep.
- Svādhyāya (स्वाध्याय): study of self. If you know your own strengths and weaknesses, you will know where you need to work in order to be able to let go of attachments. Attachments prevent clarity of mind.
- Īśvarapraṇidhāna (ईश्वरप्रणिधान): attunement to the supreme consciousness. Knowing that there is something bigger than yourself and maintaining an awareness of being part of something bigger, helps put distractions into perspective.
This list may sound simple enough, but these are ongoing practices. They require dedication and commitment. With persistence, practicing each one of these helps the mind to become more still. We can practice each and every one of these values both on and off the mat.