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Niyamas: Personal Discipline

June 2, 2009

“Mana eva manushyanam karanam bandha mokshayoho.   As the mind, so the man; bondage or liberation are in your own mind.”
                                                                                        -Sanskrit saying common in India

“Yoganganusthanad asuddhi ksaye jnandiptir a vivekhyateh.  By the practice of the limbs of yoga, the impurities dwindle away and there dawns the light of wisdom, leading to discriminative discernment.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                              -Yoga Sutras II:28

tree outside the retreat in India, sunlight peaking through the cracks.
tree outside the retreat in india, sunlight peaking through the cracks.

The Niyamas are the 2nd limb of Ashtanga yoga, after the yamas.  The Niyamas are guidelines for how you should treat yourself and how to develop and improve your personal qualities.  Whereas the yamas present guidelines for how we should treat others, the niyamas tell us how to treat ourselves, moving us ever so slightly deeper along the path towards enlightenment.  The niyamas are:

  • Shauca: Cleanliness/Purity.  Keep your self (internally and externally) and your environment clean.  
  • Santosha: Contentment.  Distinguish between true happiness that comes from doing good and happiness that comes at the expense of others.  Distinguish between temporary and lasting happiness.  Practice being a content and joyful person for the benefit of all.
  • Tapas: Discipline.  Tapas means fire.  It is our burning desire and dedication to the practice of yoga. 
  • Svadhyaya: Study of the Self.  Are you implementing the morality you know is right?  Continual work on one’s self to become a better person.
  • Ishvara Pranidhana: Devotion to God.  Be grateful, every single day for your life.  Have faith in your dedication to yoga.

The niyamas are further methods of refining your person and preparing yourself for the path of yoga.  They prepare us for the next limb of yoga, the asana practice and for eventually moving onto the more internal limbs of Ashtanga.  Think of them as practices that will help you become the person you want to be.

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