What are the Niyamas?

We’ve covered the first limb of yoga – the yamas. The second limb of yoga, according to the Yoga Sutras of Pantajali, are the niyamas.

Directly translated from Sanskrit, “niyama” means “agreement”. Consider these five guidelines “personal ethics” of the yoga world. While yamas are the “don’ts”, niyamas are the “dos”. Here’s a quick description of each one, with my personal experience as an example in case you’re interested in more:

1. Saucha – purity/cleanliness
On the mat: Keeping my practice area clean and free of clutter 🧽 Not allowing my mat or my space to be disrespected or misused.
Off the mat:​ Tongue scraping, body brushing, eating clean, and most difficult of all – avoiding entertainment that focuses on negativity

2. Santosha – contentment
On the mat: Accepting and enjoying whatever I can do, and not getting caught up in what I am unable to do during any given asana practice
Off the mat: One of my biggest challenges, honestly. I remind myself that I am where I need to be, and everything will come in its due time 😌

3. Tapas – discipline with passion
On the mat: Practicing asana even when I don’t feel like it. Arriving on my mat and choosing to breath into my practice
Off the mat: I may be a bit extreme with this one. I follow a schedule that keeps me productive and somehow fervently vacuuming feels a lot like asceticism 🤣

4. Svadhyaya – self-study
On the mat: Meditating. Observing my body, my assumptions, and my reaction within each posture
Off the mat: Oohhhhh my favorite 🤩 I love to learn about myself. Reading self help books, having deep conversations, and trying new things 

​5. Ishvara pranidhana – surrender to the Divine
On the mat: Devoting my practice to something bigger than myself
Off the mat: Letting go of what I cannot control and leaving it up to God/the Universe

As I mentioned before, this is a very simplified explanation. There is overlap between how I experience these guidelines in practice. I feel more passionate about certain ethics than others – actually, sharing my practices has been an exercise in realizing which areas need a little more love and effort ❣️

​I hope you’ve gained a basic understanding of the 10 principles that govern yoga. In case you’d like to read more, check out this post from The Yoga Collective.

Emily

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