Niyama (observances) is the second limb of Patanjali’s eight-limbed yoga system.
Unlike Yama, the first limb of yoga which is primarily concerned with the world around us, Niyama refers to positive duties or observances directed towards ourselves. The practice of Niyama helps to maintain a positive environment for us to thrive and develops self-discipline and humility.
Here are five niyamas that we can practice:
- Shaucha (self-purification): It was discovered that impurities in both our external environment and internal body adversely affect our state of mind. The practices of pranayamas, asanas and meditation will help to cleanse the body and mind. We should also select wisely from the many choices of food, emotions and thoughts that we allow into our body and mind.
- Santosha (contentment): Contentment comes from the experience of acceptance of life, ourselves and whatever life has brought us. When we choose to be contented, we will be happy. We can work on this by accepting what is and what isn’t at every point of our lives and by being contented with the present moment.
- Tapas (self-discipline): Tapas accompanies any discipline that is willingly and gladly accepted in order to bring about change. For example, the practice of asanas is a form of tapas for the body while meditation is a form of tapas for the mind. Tapas can be achieved even for the smallest things in life. We can practise this by being aware of our intentions to change and improve and take small steps to get there.
- Svadhyaya (self-study): Svadhyaya relates to introspection. As life presents endless opportunities for us to learn about ourselves, consciously recollecting, contemplating and meditating on our experiences will help us to understand our thoughts and desires more clearly. We can practise this by starting with breath awareness and meditation which will help us tune inwards and recognise when we are acting in harmony with our goals.
- Ishvara Pranidhana (self-surrender): To attain the goal of yoga, we must dissolve our egocentric nature and let go of our constant identification with ourselves. Ishvara Pranidhana is the dedication, devotion and surrender of our practice to a higher power. It is the act of giving ourselves to a higher purpose.
By consistently practising the niyamas above, it will help us to put our spirituality into action, bring about greater internal awareness and a more peaceful state of mind.