MOST PEOPLE think that yoga is all about asanas (body poses), which discourages many from joining join for all they see are challenging yoga poses of women in revealing outfit, fit for the beach. Whatever happened to the beautiful and flowing traditional yoga clothes? Seeing yoga being advertised falsely and westernized, treated more as a business and for ego–based intention, rather than a School of Life, to live in a spiritual way, is disheartening.
Allow me to impart my humble knowing and understanding on the meaning of the system in depth, to guide and encourage aspiring students to learn the very purpose of the practice, as well as to give light to the curious.
In my previous article I discussed the first of the eight limbs (paths) of yoga, which is Yama. Let us take a look at the second limb, Niyama.
Niyama, governs the rules of personal behavior and conscious choices. How do you live when no one is looking? How do you behave when you are the only witness? What are your real intentions?
This second step of Yoga is much needed in our present critical situation to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus, by applying awareness in all our actions – a self-responsibility, so we can regain our strength the soonest and build back what we have lost.
Niyama, has five sub-limbs: shaucha, santosha, tapas, svadhyaya and ishwara pranidhana.
Shaucha or purity, cleanliness. It relates to the cleansing of the outer body through a regular bathing and maintaining good hygiene, the purification of the inner body through consistent exercise, asanas (body postures), pranayama (breathing techniques) and kriyas (detoxification of internal organs). Purity in thoughts, speech, action, surroundings, intentions, nutrition, is part of shaucha.
Santosha or contentment. It is the absence of addiction to power, control and approval. Through this practice, the mental turbulence that disturbs your contentment vanishes. Keeping the mind focused on happiness, that no matter what circumstances you are in and what is happening around you, your state of calmness remains the same and your peace becomes independent from any given situation.
Tapas translated as austerity. It refers to the discipline of the external and internal body. People often associate discipline with deprivation. You may want to ask yourself your goals in life and start mapping the steps to attain it. These steps are what we are referring to as discipline. They are well–thought–of actions, the vehicle to transport you to your dream destination.
The Sanskrit word tapas also mean “heat or internal fire.” It evokes fiery passion, to burn away impurities in the body, choosing a healthy balanced diet, developing regulated food intake.
To follow nature’s rhythm, like rising early when the sun rises in the morning and retiring as soon as the moon takes over, radiates peace in the mind and tranquility in the heart. With tapas involved, a yogi’s life is certain to shine brightly, she becomes a beacon of light that brightens up the dark.
Svadhyaya refers to the dedication of study of Vedic spiritual literatures and prayers. The Gayatri mantra is the base of all Vedic verses, which has two categories, Vedic and Tantra. Mantras are words recited repeatedly to give siddhi (power), to those who chant them. A union with your desired deity or God.
Svadhyaya illuminates the difference between knowledge and knowingness. It teaches you, not to confuse information with wisdom. Performing holy actions and maintaining holy thoughts, to create selflessness, is svadhyaya. When svadhyaya lives in your awareness, dependence on superficial and outer accomplishments deceased and joy arises from within.
Ishvara Pranidhana means faith or to surrender to God. It is an action of completely surrendering to the unknown, believing in the wisdom of the higher self. Furthermore, it is a dedication to fulfill your sacredduties, trusting the process even in uncertainty, to mirror the God-like perfection to attain samadhi (enlightenment/bliss) and to be One with the Supreme Being, the essence of all existence.
As you embrace Niyama and your practice becomes a natural expression in your daily living, expect to receive a pure contented sense of well-being, a glowing body of health, a euphoric divine connection with your spirit and an eternal life filled with rhapsodies of ecstasy.