SECOND STAGE: NIYAMAS
The second stage is NIYAMAS. The 5 Yamas create the foundation for the 5 Niyamas. They are constructive tools for cultivating happiness and self confidence; the opportunity to practise them arises in every moment of the day. The following are brief descriptions of each niyama:
SAUCHA — Purity of body and mind
When practising saucha we aim to keep our immediate environment clean and tidy so that we are not distracted by an untidy desk or room. We care for our bodies by taking care of our diet, choosing food that helps the body to function more efficiently. We take care of our minds by reading books that elevate our consciousness, see movies that inspire, and associate with positive people. We are then feeding the mind and spirit in a way that nourishes our own peacefulness.
SANTOSHA — Contentment
Contentment is often confused with happiness. But we can be in difficult, even painful circumstances and still find some semblance of contentment by allowing things to be as they are. This certainly doesn’t mean that we tolerate difficult circumstances but we are more able to see our way through them skillfully when the mind is still and focused. Focus on the good things in your life rather than what you want but don’t need.
TAPAS — Discipline and burning enthusiasm
Literally translated as fire or heat, tapas is the disciplined use of our energy. Tapas is a way of directing our energy, like a focused beam of light cutting through the dark. If we direct this energy then it can cut down on procrastination and putting things off until tomorrow.
The analogy off a fire is fitting for this precept. Once a fire has died out it can take a great deal of energy to start it up again. When you do get a fire to light, the embers must be fanned and paid attention to. The fire requires a strong and disciplined focus to fuel it or it will die. But once the fire is roaring it is easy to sustain.
Discipline is having enough respect for yourself to make choices that truly nourish your wellbeing and provide opportunities for growth. Tapas allows us to direct our energy towards a fulfilled life of meaning and one that is exciting and pleasurable.
SWADHYAYA — Self-study
The form that the self study takes is not really important. Whatever the practice, as long as there is an intention to know yourself through it, and the commitment to see the process through, almost any activity can become an opportunity to reflect and learn about yourself.
Swadhayaya means staying with our process through thick and thin because it’s usually when the going gets tough that we have the greatest opportunity to learn about ourselves. Practising yoga is often very pleasurable at first but it can become very challenging. It is at these times that we can learn about ourselves and how we approach difficulties both on and off the mat.
ISHVARA PRANIDHANA — Celebration of the spiritual
The word surrender has different connotations and can be viewed as weakness. But the act of surrender to a higher power can be a courageous state of mind in which we let go of our ego and selfish desires, trusting that the path we have chosen will lead us to contentment. It allows us to live fearlessly moment to moment allowing the future take care of itself.
“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength” ~ Corrie ten boom.