Niyama: The Second Limb of the Eight Limb Path

by | Aug 12, 2022 | Nurturing Your Practice

*This article was written by Ashlyn Rochester for My Vinyasa Practice*

In our Yoga Teacher Training, we learn about the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. There are four books and book two covers the 8 Limbs of Yoga. As a review the 8 Limbs are:

  1. Yama (abstinence)
  2. Niyama (observance)
  3. Asana (posture practice)
  4. Pranayama (breath control)
  5. Pratyahara (sense withdrawal)
  6. Dharana (concentration) 
  7. Dhyana (meditation) 
  8. Samadhi (contemplation, absorption, superconscious taste) 

In this blog, we’ll cover the Niyamas and how to implement it into your practice. 

What Are The Niyamas?

The Niyamas are duties individuals should perform for and to ourselves. They’re intended to help us grow and build character. From the first to the last Niyama, we’re guided from the physical body to the divine, Universal Consciousness, pure awareness, God, or whatever else you’d like to call your deity. 

When you’re able to apply all five Niyamas to your life, you can be more authentic in your life, community, and your relationship with your deity. 

The Five Observances of Niyamas

Niyamas are made up of five observances to cultivate in our lives in order to develop positive relationships with ourselves. The five Niyamas are:

  1. Saucha (purity of being)
  2. Santosha (contentment)
  3. Tapas (austerity)
  4. Svadhyaya (self-study)
  5. Isvara Pranidhana (devotion to a higher power)

Now, let’s break down what each means.

First Niyama: Saucha (Purity of Being)

Saucha has different translations but each boils down to the same thing: cleanliness or purity of being. It doesn’t mean cleanliness in just a physical sense, but in other aspects of our lives too. For example, using Saucha to recognize habits we’ve picked up on that no longer serve us. This is where observing mental fluctuations without judgment can help you reach that clarity and recognize what else needs to be cleaned out of your life. We reach a pure state of being when we stop labeling the world and our experiences as good or bad or right or wrong. When you cultivate Saucha, you create a connection to Isvara, or Pure Awareness. This connection makes it possible to find balances within the gunas (sattva, rajas, tamas). When that happens, you find turiya, the fourth state of consciousness, where Pure Awareness lives.

You can practice Saucha by following a physical detoxifying practice, a healthy diet, and proper hygiene. For incorporating Saucha into your life, work on not placing judgments on the thoughts that arise. 

Second Niyama: Santosha (Contentment)

Santosha is translated into contentment, but we know that it’s easier said than done! One common aspect of Chitta Vritti, or mental fluctuations of the mind, is the idea “I’ll be happy when/if…”. But thoughts like those take us away from the present and our connection with Isvara (Pure Awareness, God, higher power, etc). Santosha encourages us to accept and appreciate what we have and are currently. When we do this, we exist within pure being and no longer have desires for anything external, which allows us to appreciate what we have in the present. 

You can implement Saucha into your practice by applying compassionate self-forgiveness of any judgements that arise.  

Third Niyama: Tapas (Austerity) 

Tapas is translated into discipline or austerity. It means having the drive to come back to the practice day after day, so it helps cultivate self-discipline, passion, and courage. It’s not just about following the physical asana practice, but all of the 8 Limbs of Yoga. When we follow a disciplined routine, we are able to better connect to Self since we are now rehearsed in how to work with the distractions and coming back to the Self. 

You can bring Tapas into your life by practicing asana as it allows us to observe our movements without judgment, allowing us to develop mindful awareness. You can also incorporate it into your life by following a disciplined routine to get into the habit of following the 8 Limbs of Yoga. 

Fourth Niyama: Svadhyaya (Self-Study)

Svadhyaya is the self-study practice of self-reflection, observation and study of the self. It is related to Saucha because you have to work on being aware of the present without adding judgment. When you take the time to reflect on yourself, you bring yourself inner peace and tranquility as you move away from mental fluctuations and closer to the seat of the heart. 

You can bring Svadhyaya into your practice by staying present to what arises without judgment. This can be practiced in your physical asana practice, but also in every aspect of everyday life. 

Fifth Niyama: Isvara Pranidhana (Devotion to a Higher Power)

The last Niyama is the practice of devotion to Isvara. Isvara means something different to everyone and has many names: Pure Awareness, God, a higher power, etc. No matter what you call it, Patanjali says devoting one’s life to this higher power brings liberation and unending bliss. The key to this practice is using Tapas to remain disciplined and consistent, which is hard in today’s world of distractions. 

To practice Isvara Pranidhana, use the other Niyamas like Tapas and Saucha to connect to your connection with your higher power. Using Tapas to create a disciplined routine will give you the results you seek as consistency is key. Another way to incorporate this Niyama in your life is to be authentic and live life fully and presently by letting go of the story, judgment, and expectations we place on ourselves and others. 

Explore the Niyamas and the 8 Limbs of Yoga in our 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training program! Our Online Yoga Trainings will deepen your understanding of yoga and learn applicable lessons to apply to your life for a deeper and enriched yoga practice and life. 

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