The practice of Yama and Niyama creates a strong fortress of physical, mental and emotional purity for the seeker/practitioner. If this purity is not created as a foundation, many complications can manifest later to obstruct one in their practice. For example, as one progresses on the path and more power is accumulated, diversions/temptations may arise that can distract a seeker from a genuine experience, causing the loss of valuable time and energy, as well as getting lost. Here are the five Niyama– Conscious Observances:
Saucha – Purity. An impurity is anything on the physical, mental or emotional level that obstructs our optimal functioning. It is our impurities that stand between us and our highest realization All the practices of Yoga are designed to remove these very impurities. Some simple examples are the various cleansing regimens of hatha yoga that help purify the physical body and mantras that help cleanse the mind and emotions. The more work a practitioner has put into willful cleansing disciplines, the easier, swifter and more successful towards spontaneous development.
Santosha – Contentment. Santosha is the art of being happy with whatever life brings. It is learning not to expect or desire more than one needs.
Tapas – Transformative Spiritual Practices. Tapas creates the heat that purifies and strengthens our bodies and minds to make them fit vehicles for self-realization.
Svadhyaya – Spiritual study. This is not merely study in the usual sense, but a deep contemplation, digestion and integration of the deeper and often hidden essences contained in the Yogic scriptures. It refers to an intensity of contemplation in which this deeper knowledge is revealed to the seeker from within themselves.
Ishvara Pranidhan – a dedication to Divine Energy. Actual practices can include any type of devotional worship, singing of bhajans, repetition of mantras, etc. These practices purify the heart and mind. There is a deeper impact when using the original sanskrit for these chants, mantras, bhajans/songs. The Yogi Scientists of long ago took the time to develop the sounds for the actual idea so that when uttered that same idea is created inside the cells, and this is why Sanskrit is today still so very valuable as a benefit.
This now completes the ten tenets for Yama and Niyama. These are the first two rungs on the Ladder for Self-Realization on the Path of Classical Indian Hatha Yoga/Ashtanga. Oftentimes we can see many who are accomplished at doing asana but have not come close towards compassion for their own spirit. To not get lost in the physical body and to rise beyond via higher consciousness these ten steps must be explored and fully understood. When we are on the path to Self -Realization it is a different and thorough process above and beyond mere exercise. Do find a way to keep these Yama and Niyama close to you in your practice via Journal, or any other format that works best for you to re-visit important concepts for your personal development. Shri Patanjali designed a complete course for us in Personal Development and Self-Realization that is a very Holistic psychology. Namaste