The Niyamas

In Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga the Niyamas are a good place to spend a lot of time working.  The Niyamas are Shaucha or cleanliness or purity, Santosha or contentment, Tapa or austerity, Swadhyaya or self-education and Ishwar-Pranidhan or recognizing that we are a part of something bigger than ourselves.  One way to look at the Niyamas is to see them as our mirror.  We look into the mirror to see how we look and feel, and we look very closely into the mirror to see all those places which are not in the light because we really want to understand how we are as people in the world.  We want to be the best we can be, so we use the mirror to see so we can do the work to become the best we can be.

When we practice Shaucha or Saucha, we create a clear intention.  We know that everything we do in the world has its impact.  We practice intentional actions, and are aware that when we do something with the intention that we want to spread goodness in the world that it is better than if we want to spread our anger.  When we try hard to spread goodness and to use our awareness to have good intentions than we are doing good work.

Santosha is a practice of awareness and seeing that the world is as it is.  We know that their is difficulty in the world.  There is also pain and suffering in the world that is happening right now.  The world is a place that can be difficult, but the world is also a place where we experience beauty and delight in being alive.  As everything happens and we become aware that it is happening, then we see it as it is.  We know that we can change the world and make the world a better place, but it is important that we first become content with the world as it is.

Swadhyaya is self-study.  We observe our actions, and our thoughts so that we can see how we are as our lives move through the world.  When our thoughts and actions become pure, we become role models of positive energy.  We can think of remembering to be aware as Swadhyaya.  Reading this newsletter, practicing yoga asana, or walking down the street is all a way to practice self-study.

Ishwar-Pranidhan.  We learn to open up to the universe and to other people, and to know that we are a part of something bigger.  Everything we practice we do it as an offering to other people, to the world, to the universe, and when we practice this way, we can bring greater meaning into our lives and our practice.

Tapas is the burning desire to achieve transformation.  We bring the idea of Tapas into our practice and into our lives to give us the ability to do the work.  If we are to be strong like the ox, and we are to look into our mirror to practice the Niyamas, we will need the enegy to do this.  Tapas is the burning strength we find to do the work that we need to do every day.