Putting the 5 Niyamas into Practice

FILED UNDER: Life, Practice

The 8 limbs wake us up to our highest potential and truest self! The Yamas and Niyamas are the first 2 of these 8 limbs and provide tools to reduce suffering as we interact with ourselves and the world. 

YAMAS – relationship with the world (RELATIONSHIP)

NIYAMAS – personal observances (LIFESTYLE)

The niyamas offer a set of ways in which we can cultivate discipline and overcome our innate resistance to change, encouraging us to develop healthier habits in our daily lives.

Practicing the 5 Niyamas

1. SAUCHA – cleanliness

Saucha invites us to look at what we read, watch, discuss, eat and what/who we surround ourselves with as we identify what we do and don’t want in our lives. It is about maintaining cleanliness in body, mind and our environment. Just like our car requires regular maintenance and cleaning, so to do we as humans.

Ask yourself: What am I associating with and how is it impacting me?

Practice: Personal hygiene, food that feels good, seek support for mental and emotional health, take care of your body in ways that feel right for you, maintain cleanliness in your environment 

2. SANTOSHA – contentment

The practice of contentment is the ability to feel satisfied within our life experience – to want what we already have. In a society centered around consumerism, this can be difficult. Contentment does not equal happiness, it is seeing things as they are without expectation. Contentment does not equal complacency, it is practicing peace and patience as we intentionally work to live our best lives.

Ask yourself: Am I satisfied within the container of my experience? What is getting in my way?

Practice: An attitude of gratitude, refraining from comparison, and cultivate a feeling of enoughness.

3. TAPAS – burning enthusiasm/self-discipline

Tapas translates to “fire” or “heat” and is the burning enthusiasm that fuels us to change that which no longer serves us. Think of tapas like a fire: once it’s completely died out it takes great effort to get it back, but once it is lit, you need to continue to feed it to keep it going. So too, we have to fuel ourselves to keep the momentum going.

Tapas is a way of directing our energy towards our quest to reduce suffering and experience more joy.  Discipline is having enough respect for yourself to make choices that nourish and provide opportunities for growth.

Ask yourself: Where are you avoiding action? What do you need to stoke the flames?

Practice: Trying something new, eliminating things that no longer work for you

4. SVADHYAYA – self-study/reflection

Any activity that brings you closer to seeing yourself is Svadhyaya – be that journaling, music, yoga, meditation, working with a therapist, coach or teacher. The form this takes doesn’t matter. Svadhyaya is about gaining a deeper understanding of yourself, your strengths, weaknesses, addictions, samskaras (habits) and self-talk.

This is not an opportunity to beat ourselves up, but rather to uncover and observe the truths of who we are with compassion and ease as we discover who we truly are. 

Ask yourself: What are your tools for self-study? What are you not willing to look at?

Practice: Examining self-limiting beliefs and attitudes, working with a trusted teacher, mentor or therapist

5. ISVARA PRANIDHANA – surrender

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. Isvara Pranidhana asks us to go quietly, even when it’s not possible to know where we’re headed – to do the work, focus on the quality of our actions and surrender to the results. Some interpret as surrender to God, or to the universe.

Another interpretation is teachability – the ability to be taught and remain open to possibility. Isvara Pranidhana says “I’ve done everything that I know how to do and I surrender/can learn from whatever comes next.” Surrender is not “giving up,” but rather letting go. Connect with your highest Self and surrender to your own divinity.

Ask yourself: What do I need to surrender?

Practice: Cultivating faith