The Niyamas …
Our last Artemis blog post considered the Yamas, the first of the 8 Limbs of Yoga. Now we move onto the Niyamas, the second limb.
The Niyamas help us to consider qualities to cultivate within ourselves. The Yama’s focus is upon how we behave in our external world, whereas the Niyamas take a gentle shift to consider our behaviours in our internal world. They are broken into 5 key concepts, so lets begin.
Translated as purity or cleanliness, ultimately encouraging us to disconnect to material belongings. A lovely and potentially therapeutic way to practice Sauca is to declutter, rearrange things, get rid of anything you no longer need. This helps create an environment that is clear, tidy and calm, ‘a more simple way of living’! Sauca also includes keeping ourselves clean inside and out, so not just brushing your teeth and showering, but to also allowing the mind to be clear and clutter free. A regular meditation practice will help a lot with this! Also clean eating & drinking.
Contentment! Similar to Sauca, a simple and modest way of living is promoted here as we accept what we have. We accept where we are, what the situation is and who we are. Believing we are enough, knowing what we have is enough. Releasing any competition, jealousy, judgment and comparison to others. Letting go of wanting more and better things. Allowing yourself to be wholeheartedly appreciative, satisfied and happy with who you are and what you have.
Tapas, has various translations: fire, to burn, discipline, energy. The essence is a consistent practice of self-disciple. Being committed to your yoga practice. Using the idea of an internal fire and heat to cultivate energy to burn away distractions and impurities. There is an undertone of strength and willpower here as Tapas also inspires us to overcome challenges and to persevere on our journey through our yoga practice, as well as life in general!
Svadhyaya is the practice of self-study. This can be practiced at every waking hour, as we simply just need to be present and aware of ourselves. Very similar to the well known practice of mindfulness where we observe our minds, watch our thoughts, without judgment or criticism, but with a curiosity to learn more about ourselves. Of course, as with all practices and disciplines, it takes effort, practice and commitment to stay aware of our own minds. Start by asking questions to yourself throughout the day, for example: “ How do I feel?” “Why have I reacted in this way?” “Is my mind present? If not, why not?”. The more regularly we ask these sort of questions, the more natural it will begin to feel to be present and you will learn so much about yourself along the way!
The big one: surrender. The most spiritual practice of all the Niyamas, as it asks us to surrender ourselves to a higher power, the divine, a god. You do not need to prescribe yourself to any particular spiritual beliefs or religions to practice Isvarapraandihana, you just need a sense or awareness of something bigger than us. Whether that be the universe, the miracle and complexity of life, nature’s power and strength or even the cosmos. Whatever resonates with you!
Now, we are beginning to build a deeper insight to the foundations of what our practice in yoga really consists of. Listen out for some themes relating to this post in the next few weeks at our Yoga classes here at Artemis! Also, we would love to know how you apply the Niyamas to your day on and off the mat!
Words by Sarah Thomas (Artemis Teacher)