In my last post about the 8 limbs of yoga, I explained the yamas, or a general moral code of how to treat others. Equally as important are the niyamas, or the principles that guide how you treat yourself! This is an amazing illustration from Five Pillars Yoga:
What exactly is niyama?
The niyamas are the observations we make in our lives. Every time something happens, we either get a good or bad feeling about it. The niyamas are our guides for ensuring that great feelings are flowing through our hearts and minds as often as humanly possible.
- Sauca: cleanliness, purity. What happens when you wake up each morning? Do you feel excited to see what the day holds? This is the principle of sauca – allowing yourself to see the infinite possibilities of what lies ahead.
- Santosa: contentment. Have you ever taken time to reflect on something you’ve done in the past and agonized over what you could have done differently if you had the wisdom you are blessed with now? DON’T!! Santosa is the principle of forgiveness. You may not have acted in a way you are proud of today, but if you use that memory to create a better version of yourself, those past indiscretions are serving a greater purpose.
- Tapas: practicing with zeal and discipline. Did your mom ever tell you that you should do everything to the best of your ability, regardless of the task? That is the essence of tapas! When you give your all to a task, it usually brings great rewards. I can’t tell you how many times I have agonized over how to improve a homework assignment, only to have my professor give me a stellar review of it. The old saying is right, you get what you give.
- Swadhyaya: self-study. Knowing yourself is one of the most powerful tools you can use to improve your life, especially when you are trying to get healthy, whether it’s physical or mental. We’re in the perfect season to discuss physical health… All of the Halloween candy, quickly followed by Thanksgiving and Christmas meals used to be a time where I gave up trying to lose weight, but you don’t have to (with my help)! I love eating all of the comfort foods on the Thanksgiving table and I would drink my mom’s homemade lemonade/iced tea like it was water. Rather than forcing myself to give everything up, I made one promise to myself, alternate a small glass of mom’s lemonade with a tall glass of water. When I did this, I noticed that if I went to get another helping of a comfort food, I took two spoonfuls instead of three or four. I’ve been using this trick ever since to enjoy the holiday meals WITHOUT the weight gain 😊
- Isvara pradihana: surrender. This is related to santosa. When you’ve realized that you have done something you aren’t proud of – like overeating – take a step back and tell yourself that it’s OK and make a promise to do better next time. It does absolutely no good to beat yourselves up. This is a huge lesson to learn, but the more you practice it, it’ll become second nature before you know it!
Now that you have a better understanding of the niyamas, which ones do you feel you need to work on?