If you are new to this blog, there is a post that precedes this one that will help put what we are talking about here into perspective.
In our first blog post we talked about the YAMAS - limb one of Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga..let’s recap;
Your social code - relationship with the external world - social and ethical disciplines which consist of five stages in itself;
NON-VIOLENCE - SANSKRIT: AHIMSA
TRUTHFULNESS - SANSKRIT: SATYA
HONESTY OR NON-STEALING - SANSKRIT: ASTEYA
SEXUAL CONTROL OR ABSTINENCE - SANSKRIT: BRAHMACHARYA
NON-POSSESSIVENESS - SANSKRIT: APARIGRAHA
In this post we are moving on to limb two the NIYAMAS - moving from the universal disciplines we hold to individual disciplines - our ‘personal code.’ The whole point of the Yamas and the Niyamas is to balance our relationship with the world and our inner self, bringing us into a sense of harmony and peace, allowing us to make better choices and stay true to ourselves.
Patanjali explains in Four Chapters of Freedom:
“There is a two way relationship: the mind stimulates external actions and external actions stimulate the mind. If the external actions are not harmonious, then the mind will be disturbed. Conversely, a disturbed mind will tend to produce dis-harmonious acts. It is a vicious cycle, where inner turmoil leads to outer turmoil and where, in turn, external turmoil leads to further inner turmoil. The yamas and the niyamas aim to break this vicious cycle and thereby calm the mind by sensible actions and sensible attitudes towards oneself, towards ones life and towards ones surroundings.”
Nobody says it better than the man himself.
So, what are the Niyamas? Here goes - again consisting of five stages which are purity/cleanliness, contentment, austerity, self study and surrender to the cosmic will.
PURITY/CLEANLINESS - SANSKRIT: SAUCHA
Cleanliness of the body and cleansing internal impurities of the body and mind. When we cleanse the body we are keeping it safe from infection and disease, when we remove impurities from the mind we help keep disturbing emotions at bay. The cleansing of the two interplay - it’s like when we have had a shower or a bath, for most of us there is a sense of relief and calm, we are ready to start the day or about to enjoy a good sleep, and if we don’t start the day with a nice long shower then something is wrong, we feel uncomfortable and the mind cannot settle until one feels fresh again. When the mind is disturbed the body suffers, we make unconscious decisions on the food we eat or opt out of our exercise routine, can’t be bothered to do anything physical and fill our bodies with toxins such as alcohol, drugs or junk food - then we feel horrible and are caught in a negative cycle, finding it harder and harder to get the mental strength to make change and break the habit. When we are pure and clean we are clear, we find it easier to concentrate, we go beyond ourselves and our body becomes a well oiled vessel ready for whatever life has to bring. It is here where we become at ease with oneself, and when we are at ease in our own skin we find it easier to break attachment to others. Yoga gives us the tools to cleanse - we practice the asanas (physical postures) to strengthen the body and remove toxins, pranayama (breathing exercises) to cleanse internal organs, oxygenate the lungs and help get rid of any stale oxygen in the body, these techniques also calm the mind and bring the mind into body, so mind and body become one, and the practice of meditation helps us to cultivate awareness, allowing us to create inner space and slowly but surely let go of impure and disturbing thoughts and emotions.
CONTENTMENT - SANSKRIT: SANTOSA
In today's world it seems contentment is becoming harder and harder to cultivate. There's always something we've got our eye on to buy, a new upgrade to have, endless amounts of products to try out, and with the dangerous obsession with social media and the unattainable 'perfect' images of people we see constantly, we are more likely to buy into these things that are advertised in a way that makes us think they will make us happier. In reality, these materials and possessions will only make us feel more and more empty, and we end up on a frenzied quest to find something new to obsess over. It’s nice to have a routine which makes us feel good, however, the healthy balance is a fine line and usually we end up spending our money on something that we think will be the absolute ONE to make us happy, only to find once again that it doesn’t. The beauty industry makes zillions of pounds playing on our insecurities and we buy into it time after time. Beauty truly does lie within, and once we realise that, believe and show ourselves love instead of putting ourselves down, then we glow from the inside out. There are too many examples of discontentment to mention, but with anything, when we look inwards for the answers, find space and give ourselves the genuine love and patience we need, then it will all become clear. When we are content we find truth and our connection to the divine - our relationship with ourselves and the world becomes a positive interaction and we begin to flourish.
AUSTERITY - SANSKRIT: TAPAS
“A burning effort under all circumstances to achieve a definitive goal in life. This involves purification, self-discipline and austerity.” Once we are content and grounded in ourselves we know that we have the power to achieve. In order for us to achieve usually means introducing some kind of discipline into our lives. Some people look on discipline as something that is going to imprison us and take away our choice, however, when we have discipline in our lives, whether it be a physical practice, meditation practice, or any kind of personal practice doing the things we love, and we find balance, then it actually gives us more freedom. We train our minds and bodies to be strong, choose the positive, be free from constraints and alleviate internal suffering - then we are truly free. Free from negative thoughts. Free to achieve our goals. Free to live. Free to just be.
SELF STUDY - SANSKRIT: SWADHYAYA
The only way to self-realisation is self-study. Self education. The practice of the yamas and the niyamas takes a whole lot self study, and self study isn't easy. Being aware of our actions, thoughts, patterns and choosing positivity over negative ways of being all takes deepening of awareness and being truly honest with ourselves. Studying the Ego, being aware of when it is leading your actions and being truthful about it is one of the hardest practices, but self-study and self education - getting to know your true self - is when we draw out the best in us and it’s where life opens up, opportunities arise and things become clear. We see the world in a different light, overcoming ignorance and bringing about pure joy and happiness.
AND SURRENDER TO THE COSMIC WILL - SANSKRIT: ISHWARA PRANIDHANA
The belief in something bigger than us - something too big to touch upon on a blog post however, we will leave you with this… “In bhakti or true love there is no place for ‘I’ and ‘Mine’. When the feeling of ‘I’ and ‘mine’ disappears, the individual soul has reached full growth… The moon is full when it faces the sun…Actions mirror a mans personality better than his words. The yogi has learnt the art of dedicating all his actions to the Lord and so they reflect the divinity within him.” - BKS Iyengar - The Illustrated Light on Yoga.
So there we have it! A brief intro to the first two limbs - enough practice to last eons and lightyears to come… If you have found any interest in any of the Yamas or Niyamas, if one sticks out to you more than the others then it might be worth digging deeper and doing some research, there’s loads out there to assist in the practice of the Eight Limbs, as long as the source is true to the tradition and linage then it will bring endless knowledge and means to explore.
The philosophy of Yoga is deeply rooted in the running of and practices at Chandra - grounding ourselves in the philosophy means we forever have a guide in times of difficulty - which is invaluable.
We hope you have enjoyed the Yamas and the Niyamas! If you wish to discuss anything we have touched upon we would love to hear from you.