Did anyone take note of your yoga teacher mentioning these other limbs of yoga? (If you were in my class this week – you most certainly would have!) Maybe this next one will hit home for you!
How were your personal reflections on the first limb, Yama? Were you able to cultivate a universal consciousness? Practice finding this in a packed yoga class – the sense that you are all working together toward a common goal, a common consciousness, and see if you can use the energy in the room to manifest your intention (or maybe to just accept some other bodies’ sweat dripping onto your mat!!)
The second limb of yoga is Niyama. Notice the similarity in the Sanskrit from Yama – Niyama means “rules” or “laws” , similar to the Yamas, but these are intimate, personal guidelines that refer to the attitude and awareness we should adopt toward ourselves as we work to enlightenment. It is also important to note that these “laws” are not prescribed exercises or actions, but they serve as a guideline for living a more spiritual life.
Let’s explore these guidelines together:
Sauca – Purity and cleanliness. This “law” refers to the practice of not only keeping our physical body clean, but also our mental space. An inner cleanliness keeps our organs free and healthy to improve the clarity of the mind. We practice Asanas and Pranyama to maintain this purity. The physical movements tone the body with gentle detoxification while the breath cleanses our lungs, fills our blood with oxygen and releases our nerves.
How much do you practice cleanliness in your life? (Think beyond your daily shower!) Is there anything you can do to remove toxins – both physical and mental – from your space? Think about how your yoga practice “detoxes” your mind and spirit…should you practice a little more?! 🙂
Santosa – This guideline means contentment. Having modesty and being at peace with our own demons even while going through life’s challenges is the root of this personal “rule”. Santosa allows us to grow emotionally as we cultivate contentment to ‘accept what happens. (This is much more commonly called Karma in the yogic world!) It also means being happy with what we do have rather than being unhappy about what we do not have.
Karma? Anyone have experience with that? Can we look around and put out only good so that only good comes right back? One of my favorite sayings hangs in the bathroom at The Green Yogi and says:
“The richest man is not he who has the most, but he who needs the least.”
What do you have? What do you truly need? Consider these ideas this week!
Tapas – This “law” refers to the practice of keeping the body fit to handle anything that life throws our way without “outer show”. Literally speaking, this tells us to practice heating the body for cleansing purposes. On a deeper level, Tapas is the idea that we can direct our energy to engage life and actively achieve a connection with the Devine. Tapas “burn” the desires that stand in the way of this goal. We can also explore this “rule” by paying attention to body posture, eating habits and breathing patterns. By controlling these aspects of life, we can harness energy that will serve a higher power.
Are you “fit”? (Answer – most likely, yes!) Are you able to use your energy to connect to a higher space? (Maybe work on this this week…) Can you find a balance of control and connection? Where is your “fire”?
Svadhyaya – Self study. This “rule” allows us to practice self-examination. Intentionally finding self-awareness in all activities and efforts, even to the extent of finding and welcoming our limitations. It teaches centered and NON REACTIVE. Also to ‘burn’ out unwanted and self-destructive tendencies.
What can you do to be more self-aware? Maybe you take an extra minute to examine your physical surroundings – maybe check in with your mental/emotional state? What does non-reactive mean to you? In a world of reaction, can you respond just a little more? (Read our blog post on this dichotomy!)
Isvaraprandidhana – That’s a long one! This final aspect of Niyama means literally to “lay all your actions at the feet of God.” It is contemplation on a higher power (of your own unique understanding) in order to become attuned to it. This practice suggests setting aside some time each day to recognize that there is some omnipresent force larger than us that is guiding and directing the course of our lives. This practice can be as simple as setting a few minutes aside in your day to meditate or breathe deeply and connect to the rhythms of your body.
Can you cultivate a meditation practice? Can you commit to worshiping that higher spirit within you? What does this “law” mean to you?
If you are following along, this concludes the guidelines for the second limb of yoga – Niyama! Hopefully you will take these teachings out into the world as each of you make it a better place. Remember that these “laws” are merely guidelines for your life on and off the mat and you are free to practice and explore them at your own pace.
As always, we want to know how you are doing! What do you love about these practices? What do you hate? What do you want to know more about – and what do you already know? Let us in on it!
See ya on the mat – or behind the desk!! 🙂
With love and light,