The Five Niyamas
What does yoga represent to you? Why did you take that first step onto the yoga mat?
I started practicing yoga because I was looking for a more peaceful life. Now, more than twenty years later, I can confidently say that when I walk off my mat after practice I’m a little bit more peaceful, a little bit kinder.
Yoga practice has the power to bring a little bit more love and peace into your life by changing the way you treat others and the way you treat yourself. One can even argue that this quest for peace is why the practice of yoga has survived for so many years.
The spirituality of our yoga journey reminds us that this practice is more than just the pose. Even now, when we keep seeing perfectly photographed poses on Instagram, we have to remind ourselves that we are more than just our asana obsessions.
We all have our favorite poses. I’m the first to admit that I really wanted to do a headstand when I started my Ashtanga practice. But the true journey of yoga is not limited to the physical poses. The path of yoga is more spiritual and metaphysical.
At the core of the metaphysical practice of yoga are the five niyamas:
- Saucha: cleanliness and purity
- Santosa: contentment, acceptance, and optimism
- Tapas: discipline and persistence
- Svadhyaya: self-study and study of the sacred texts
- Isvarapranidhana: devotion to the higher power
These moral and ethical self-disciplines help yogis relate with society. Since very few of us will become monks, the niyamas can help us householder yogis balance our yoga practice with the society in which we live.
As I discuss the five niyamas, you may recognize some of these from other episodes. I’ve discussed tapas many times before on this podcast, but not in the way it influences the effort the yogi dedicates to their practice.
In yoga, your effort is directly related to how much yoga is asking you to change your life. These changes can manifest in many ways, from dietary changes to complete mental makeovers in your subconscious. Tapas will help you balance your discipline so you can dedicate the right kind of effort to your practice.
Remember – we should have that feeling of effort or else we miss the very thing that yoga is trying to teach us.
The five niyamas are the substance of the lifelong journey into the spiritual practice of yoga. You will think of them every time you get on your mat, and your perspective of the niyamas will change as you evolve on this journey.
Tune in to my latest podcast episode now to learn how to fit the niyamas into your yoga practice.