Continuing about Niyama- Conscious Observances…


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 NiyamaConscious Observances: 

SauchaPurity.  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.

TapasTransformative Spiritual Practices.  Tapas creates the heat that purifies and strengthens our bodies and minds to make them fit vehicles for self-realization.

SvadhyayaSpiritual 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 Pranidhana 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


121 responses »

  1. After reading this article I found that the niyamas are methods of further refining yourself. They help prepare further inner recognition. I think of them as practices that will help me become the person I want to be. I’d like to incorporate them, along with the yamas, into my everyday life. These are great tools to help with how we should treat ourselves. I found this emotional advice so enlightening because these are things that we do know we should be doing, but don’t always. Being clean, dedicated, content, moral, and greatful are somethings that we should always try to bring into our daily attitudes.

    This week I have practiced the Isha Kriya 7 times so far. If I am capable I like to practice it twice a day, but I don’t always have that much time on my hands. I practice for about 15 minutes each time and typically use the video because it helps me stay focused on the exercise. I usually practice in my bed against my wall sometimes with a pillow against my back so that I use my tall posture to hold it steady. I’ve noticed that I’ve really improved over the weeks in seperating time for the isha kriya because I have found a great sense of realization and relaxtation everytime I do it that has been so healthy for my mind and inner conscious.

  2. In reading about Niyama and Yama being a sort of foundation of purity for the self, I found myself questioning if I had achieved certain parts of the five Niyama but have missed the step in creating a strong foundation. I feel that I am currently adhering to the ideas of several of these steps but I am not feeling compassion for my own spirit yet. I would like to further learn about these steps within yoga class and perhaps gold group discussions about how other people’s journeys are going.

    I feel that I am already following the ideas Sontosha brings, in that I do not expect more from life than I feel I deserve and that I only expect from others the same level of effort that I have put into a friendship.I think that I found the step of Svadhyaya most interesting, as it is a definition of the word study that I had rarely been told to do. Typically in scholarly work we are told to study, as in to read and re-read a text or body of work until we have memorized it. This definition seems to be more focused on achieving a personal sense of understanding and not one that involves reading from a book or something of the sort. Though of course one can implement other spiritual readings and texts into it, it seems to be more about taking what you have already learned and digesting it and making it something you can personally learn and grow from.

    A part of Niyama I feel I am lacking in is Ishvara Pranidhan. I have not yet explored devotional worship and I am not yet sure how that will work for me as I have had a difficult time in the past dedicating myself to devoting myself to worship.
    I feel that I am becoming lost in the psychical body and putting that before my mind. I tend to care for my psychical body before I care for my mind in all aspects and this has led to some issues with having to have to take several days to care for my mental health and to find inner peace. I very much enjoy learning about yoga and the steps and subjects that fall within it.

    • Michelle, you will not be asked to take up devotional worship in this class…other than devoting yourself to attending the class, doing your assignments…the journal posts are given to you to expand your awareness of the depths and possibilities of true classical hatha yoga. We all start on the Path and reach different parts at different times….Please do bring up your questions when we do the group sessions for chat, OM

  3. The Niyama practice seems like it will be a little bit difficult for me to follow. I struggle with my thoughts on a minute basis, and as Saucha says, I struggle with a lot of impurities in the mental, emotional, and physical sense of the word. I will admit that I hate being so negative, and I have tried many times to follow the Four Agreements, a self-help book, but have not been able to successfully follow the practice through to the end. However, I should say that I am willing and open to trying to follow the Niyama practice. I am enjoying yoga and the Isha Kriya, and do feel more free from negative thoughts, as well as closer to who I really am, and believe that, with more practice, I will successfully change my ways. Within the yoga practice, I feel that Saucha has made an appearance in the relaxation portion of the class, and every asana seems to get easier as I breathe out negative thoughts and inhale positivity, or at least that is how I see it.
    The breathing out of negative thoughts has led me into the second portion of the Niyama practice, Santosha. I have slowly begun the progression toward contentment with myself, with my body, and with what I can and cannot do. I have struggled with stretching myself too thin, or desiring something more than I have, and I agree and openly admit that it is unhealthy. I have never felt the positive feelings of being alone and content in the moment with what I have, and I am learning how to be content and happy with who I am at the current moment. However, as I hear you mention at times, I believe that I will be able to work toward a more spiritual identity, as I do not need to settle for who I am. There is always more I can learn and do, and in my opinion, I can say that Tapas moves its way into Santosha, as progression toward contentment purifies the mind for acceptance and strength in both the body and mind, that which I am looking forward to experiencing.
    At the end of the day, I believe that this practice follows closely the storyline of Khaled Hosseini’s novel, “A Thousand Splendid Suns.” Mariam and Leila, the principal characters, are brought to the realization that the power they searched for was within themselves the entire time. They reached the necessary step of Svadhyaya, and searching deep inside themselves contained within this oppressive culture. This, in turn, leads to a dedication to the divine energy in Ishvara Pranidhan in Mariam as she finds peace in sweeping the floor, or cooking, as well as playing with Aziza and singing her songs she learned from her mother before she passed away. She is sentenced to death and accepts peacefully as she finds the purification of her bitter heart in the repetition of her childhood with her niece. While I am not sure if this is the exact use of the Niyama practice, I see this very strongly in the novel, and I am looking forward to reaching acceptance and spirituality within myself.

    • Thanks for a well written essay, your references are insightful, your honesty refreshing….please know I think that you and each of us are perfect in this moment and nothing more is better than that….I support you as who you are and in the event you choose to develop other qualities I will support you in this quest as well….Namaste

  4. After reading and contemplating on both articles I can say that one of my biggest questions is, what are these “impurities” we refer to as keeping us from our optimal realization? Of course what we simply refer to as “good and bad” is subjective according to the culture and individual, so what is keeping us from purity or as it’s so beautifully put, “Saucha.” The word “impurity” has been used by many different groups and religions to describe some natural aspects of life such as menstruation, so I am a bit wary of the word when it is without an explanation to what it is referring to. But if we are referring to plainly diversions and temptations that lead us off the path to higher realization then I understand completely as to what these impurities are.

    I was unaware of who the scholar Shri Patanjali was up until now, but I am grateful to have been introduced to his tenets for the science of Hatha yoga (documented in the first article from the 26th). The five Yama or “Ethical practices” really stuck with me and gave me great insight into what I will be focusing on in my next Isha Kriya practice. While of course this is all in my personal opinion, I see the implementation of non-violence, truth, non-stealing, non-possessiveness and moderation into ones life as a multilayered practice into getting rid of ones selfishness; Because to participate in the opposite and go against any of these Yama tenets would be to feed ones inconsiderate and egocentric part of the self. Non of us are perfect and we will all fall into breaking one of these ethical practices in our life time, but to be aware of them and practice Hatha yoga will aid ourselves in not repeating the same mistake.

    Both the Yama and Niyama tenets remind me deeply of the practiced Buddhist tenets. While they are not exactly the same, and I understand that Hatha Yoga is not a religion, the two do share major similarities in their sets of beliefs. Buddhism believes that suffering comes from desire and wants, just as we mentioned “diversions and temptations” in regards to keeping us from Niyama in Hatha Yoga. Now in contrast, the Buddhist practice involves the Eight Fold Path, which highlights right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right concentration and right mindfulness. While some of these are in parallel to the teachings of Hatha Yoga and some are not, they all strive for the minimization of selfishness.

    I’ve practiced Isha Kriya less than I should have this week. I practiced three times due to being ill but after getting slightly better I realized practicing Isha Kriya during this time probably would have benefited me greatly if I had just pushed myself. I no longer need to follow the video because my roommates and I have memorized what is needed during the practice, but we usually keep the chart up just in case. When we started we would do fifteen minutes but are now working up towards a half hour to forty-five minutes. The only challenges have been that it is no longer warm enough for us to go outside and find a quiet area, so we’ve had to practice in our dorm, which can get quite noisy.

    • You have really seriously placed the yoga studies in the right context of your practices…your group IK practices are so powerful because you decided to amplify and keep the experience amongst those who you are living with. I am sure that this will only enhance all of your roommates relationship to one another and make for a wonderful living environment, this is quite rare and special! Namaste
      p.s. yes the impurities are cobwebs that get in our way along the way

  5. ~Isaiah

    All of the niyama struck me as very important notions, one that I found very tangibly helpful to me is Santosha. Santosha is the notion of contentment and being happy with what one has. I feel like we as humans are naturally great at adapting. And to an extent we could get rid of a lot of possessions that we have and still be very content after some adjustment. It seems that now a days no one is satisfied with what they have and they only seek to conquer more and gain possessions. At some point, I believe, these possessions only serve to distract us from what makes us truly and sustainably happy which may be different for different people but in general is not material wealth like some people think. I think if people took a step back and thought about what they really needed in this life that they would find they can stand to let a lot of things go in an effort to live more simply and happily.

  6. I admire the fact that the focus of Yama and Niyama is purity. I believe that a pure mind is a health one as it allows us to filter our thoughts while creating and nurturing new ones. This “foundation” also allows us to be our optimum selves which in turn, I believe, results in an enhanced and perhaps more gratifying experience.

    In order to experience Sauha, i feel I must first identify parts of my life which negatively impact my experience, or hold me back from optimal function. By first identifying these I feel I have a greater chance of allowing my experience with Sauha to be as beneficial and long term as possible. Santosha,for me, is a struggle. I always am waiting to pursue another opportunity, or another experience, and in doing so don’t allow myself to enjoy the present. Santosha is not only a goal, but a necessity for me if I am hoping to further my experience.. Svadhyava is something which I hope to be able to experience with more exposure to scriptures. Contemplation is an extremely exercised concept in my life, and I hope to be able to do so with Hatha yoga and the philosophy which supports it.

    In upcoming weeks I hope to approach Yama and Nizam with humility and the ten tenets in mind. Each tenant is relevant, however I feel that subjects such as purity, contentment, and Svadhayaya are especially going to be important for me to contemplate on and consider in my approach to practice and life.

  7. I found this text to be more helpful than the Yama in really understanding what the philosophy of Yoga entails. The Yama seems to be more of a way to control the morality of people who follow Yoga, but the Niyama seems to be ways to physically and mentally engage while doing Yoga practice. I’m going to try to think about the Niyama during class the week.

  8. Bouncing off of what we went over in the last post concerning the Tenets, we move on to the practice of Niyama. Balancing Yama, it helps to keep the practitioner mindful and conscious. It also helps the seeker obtain some sense of purity, as well as a firm, solid foundation. The five Niyama are broken down as such: Sucha, Santosha, Tapas, Svadhyaya, and Ishvara Pranidhan. What I noticed about the elements of Niyama is that they are far more complex than that of Yama in the definitions presented. Perhaps because they focus on consciousness, a never ending component of human nature. It is important to remember, though, that these tenets complement one another, with it making sense that one would be more complex than the other.
    We begin with purity, or Saucha. As individuals, we come across impurity on a daily basis. Whatever we allow to limit, destroy, or distract us from our higher purpose. As the article says, “All the practices of Yoga are designed to remove these very impurities,” and I agree with that sentiment. I think it’s important to remember that this does not suggest that we are unclean or dirty. I just serves as a reminder that we have many things that seep into our psyche, and those things do not define us as people. Next, Santosha, or the idea of contentment. This is a rather special notion to me, because it goes far deeper than being happy with material things or what is going on in the moment. I agree with the article’s explanation, “Santosha is the art of being happy with whatever life brings. It is learning not to expect or desire more than one needs.”
    The last three–Tapas, Svadhyaya, and Ishvara Pranidhan–deal more with spirituality. These Niyama hold themes of self-realization, contemplation, self-study. I would consider this to be on the higher end of the spectrum, which the conquering of the other seven tenets to be more achievable before attempting to tackle these. I do, however, believe that once I get to the point of being able to undertake these, I will be exploring a brand new state of consciousness and understanding.

  9. After reading about the practice of Rama and Niyama I began to make signs to place in my meditation area. Another way I made myself retain the information is by reciting them out loud before every morning meditation. All five of the Niyama practices I felt would personally enhance my spiritual being. This week I made sure I practiced Saucha by taking extra Yoga classes at the wellness center and taking the time to go to the sauna in order to rejuvenate my muscles when felt tense. To practice Ishvara Pranidhan I began to meditate at night to certain mantras depending on what I felt I lacked that day. For example, on Thursday my mantra was the word acceptance of where I have been and where I want to go. This was my chosen mantra because my 20th birthday was the following weekend.

    In the post it says ” Oftentimes we can see many who are accomplished at doing asana but have not come close towards compassion for their own spirit.” This sentence stuck with me because I lack compassion for what I have accomplished in terms of my self-realization and spiritual practice. Knowing that with time and dedication I will begin to know myself in ways I never thought was possible has refocused my practice.

  10. This article was very helpful. I am glad it breaks everything down for you and describes what each one means. These articles are always easy to read because of how they post the information in an easy to read and understand way.

  11. I am inspired after reading more about the Niyamas. After reading part one, I feel that I while I have better awareness and use of the Yamas, I really need to work on the Niyamas. I love what they represent and they are concepts that I don’t typically think about during my day to day life, but If I took time out to really consider them it would benefit me so much.

    Saucha is very important. Purifying our bodies mentally, physically and emotionally is something that is so important. Cleansing the mind of negative thoughts can alter perspective and allow for more open and productive thinking. Cleansing physically allows us to maintain a better, healthier body better for practicing yoga and maintaining great energy. Emotional purification can be difficult but can be so useful in handling stressful situations and improving how we think and react to them. Santosha is something that seems to far away for so many people these days. No one is content with what they have, and everyone is looking into their wallet or at their phone to find happiness. I am sympathetic and understand how easy it is to rely on money because we live in a society that revolves around it and does hold a lot of power over us. Phones are the optimal distraction and lead us to believe we are happy when in fact we are denying ourselves and avoiding the times where we could be content with doing nothing, or something else that doesn’t involve instant social gratification. Tapas, Svadhaya, and Ishvara Pranidhan focus on spiritual energy and deep inner focus as well as an understanding and deep interest in the knowledge of yoga and other spiritual practices.

    It is important that we focus on improving our behaviors, taking care of our bodies and energies and investing time into our minds to achieve peace and understanding through knowledge and contemplation.

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