What is yoga? Part 5: Niyama - Life Principles
If the First Limb of yoga is about how we interact with the external environment, the Second Limb of yoga is about how we treat ourselves. The external environment is just a reflection of what we have inside us and if we want the change - we must change ourselves first. And the practice of the Second Limb of yoga guides us on our self-development path.
The Second Limb of yoga is called “Niyama”, or positive duties or observances from Sanskrit, which consist of five principles of individual behavior. Let us look at each of them.
The first principle is shaucha (purity), which means not only keeping the body and living space clean but also the purity of thoughts that we cultivate during our everyday life.
The second principle is santosha (contentment). The yogic sense of contentment is a calm openness to any life experience and its acceptance. A real yogi is able to accept even what at the moment does not suit him at all.
The third principle of niyama is tapas (self-discipline). To achieve any results in life, we must be consistent in our practice and actions. Diligence in moving towards our goals the most accurately reflects the spirit of discipline.
The fourth principle is svadhyaya (self-knowledge), which is a reflection on how well we know ourselves, what we truly want in life, where we are going. It is about disconnecting our true selves from what has been imposed upon us by other people and what does not belong to us. Also, on the path of self-knowledge, yogis study the philosophy of yoga and try to comprehend the innermost essence of its teachings.
And, finally, the fifths principle is isvara-pranidhana (entrusting oneself to the Supreme Being). By practicing isvara-pranidhana, we are constantly remembering that we are only people and, in the end, not everything is in our power. We are learning the cultivation of a deep and trusting relationship with the universe and making each action an offering to something bigger than us.
Practicing Niyama is an amazing journey - as much amazing as the asanas practice, which we will learn more about in the next post.