Niyamas- Personal observances, actions, and attitudes.
The word “Yoga” means to “yoke” or “unite”. Yoga is simultaneously the practices associated with wholeness and the actual state of wholeness. Through dedication to the “eight limbed path” prescribed by ancient philosopher Pantanjali, we develop a deep cultivation of peace within ourselves and reach a state of unity with The Divine.
The Niyamas make up the second limb of the“Eight Limbed Path of Yoga”. They are the personal observances, actions, and attitudes to be practiced within ourselves to cultivate non-attachment, and to overcome the illusion of separation from the whole.
The five observances are:
Saucha (sow-ch-ahh) – Purity/Cleanliness Santosha (san-toe-sh-ahh) – Contentment Tapas (tah-pahh-s) – Austerity Svadhayaya (s-vahd-hi-yah-yah) – Self Study Isvara Pranidanah (iss-var-ahh prod-in-ahh-ahh) – Devotion to God
Now let us take a deeper look into the five observances…
Saucha (sow-ch-ahh) – Cleanliness or purity of the body and mind. Living a clean lifestyle. Physically this is the practice of keeping our bodies healthy by avoiding toxic substances, and keeping our lives in order by attending to our work and our environment to create literal cleanliness, tidiness, and organization. As a mindfulness practice it is attending to our thoughts and working to let go of negative thinking patterns.
Santosha (san-toe-sh-ahh) – Contentment, or accepting life on life’s terms. In practice we accept that we can not control the the future or the actions of others, nor can we change the past. We learn to live in the present moment with the wisdom that what we can control is our own thoughts and actions. The fruits of any other intention are attachment to desire, fear, and worry that separate our minds from peace.
Tapas (tah-pahh-s)- Austerity, zeal, and self discipline. The literal interpretation of tapas is that which generates heat. It pertains to how we approach our practice and observances. We should approach our practice with zeal and self discipline. It is holding the intention to approach our spiritual path and personal growth with fiery determination.
Svadhayaya (s-vahd-hi-yah-yah) – Self-study and self-reflective awareness. It is the practice of learning to understand ourselves by watching our thoughts and actions constantly. In this process we discover who we are. Studying sacred writings and reading inspirational literature is part of this process and leads us to evaluate our thoughts/actions as aids or impediments to union with God. When we identify an impediment, then we can work to change it.
Isvara Pranidanah (iss-var-ahh prod-in-ahh-ahh) – Devotion to God. This is the practice of abandoning the attachment to our egos and surrendering to union with The Divine. Full commitment to God in heart and mind. Cultivation of unfaltering faith.