Yoga Niyamas come in the second limb of the eight-limbed yoga system designed by Patanjali. Niyama deals with our internal self-discipline paying least attention to the external ethical behavior. The Yamas in yoga focus on person’s external conduct that affects society, while the Niyamas deal mostly with the inner strength and discipline in a person, so that he lives in peace with himself. In most of the scriptures, you will find ten Niyamas but in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, you will find only five Niyamas that are inner observations, restraints, and obligations.
The Five Niyamas
Niyamas are the moral codes or social contracts that guide us to have a positive behavior also towards others but mainly to ourselves. The Niyama practice encourages us to have a deeper understanding and to apply yogic teaching in our lives to live sublime lives. The five Niyamas are as follows:
The word Saucha in yoga stands for cleanliness, internal as well as external, and cleansing of both body and mind. This Niyama in yoga helps bringing attention to a healthy body, without which you just cannot do higher yoga practices. Therefore, your body has to be clean if you want it to be in perfect health and shape. Urine, sweat, mucus, etc are wastes human body produces everyday and cleaning of these impurities daily is important, or else they develop numerous infections and diseases in body. The Saucha Niyama offers six purification methods to cleanse body from inside – Dhauti, Neti, Nauli, Basti, Trataka, and Kapalabhati. Saucha Niyama also has certain ways to purify your mind, as in it helps to engage your mind in positive thoughts that keep a number of diseases away.
“Tapah” is a Sanskrit word that means hot, and Tapas means austerity. Fire purifies gold; similarly, the Tapas Niyama purifies a person physically, mentally, and emotionally. Tapas Niyama helps cultivating a sense of self-discipline, courage, and passion, which all help burn all impurities and rise above to one’s true greatness. Tapas is a purification process that removes dullness and negativity from mind.
Discontentment is the biggest enemy of our happiness. Always craving for what you do not have and not valuing your own possessions, getting jealous of other’s possessions are discontentment’s that do not do people any good, rather it destroys their happy life. The Samtosha Niyama is all about teaching people contentment that is a mantra for happiness and health in life. Practicing contentment gives us freedom from that unhappy, discomforting feeling that eats up all the happiness in our lives.
This Niyama means surrender to God, to dedicate your actions and thoughts to God. You do not have to sit idle and think that god will take care of everything, rather give everything your best shot but before giving that shot, just dedicate it to God. Once you get the fruits of your action, again surrender them to god. Human beings are blessed with certain physical and mental abilities that they are supposed to use in order to perform actions, so that every action you take is correct.
The Svadhyaya Niyama enables a human being to contemplate and analyze oneself so that one gets to know their true ability and weaknesses. Once you know what your flaws are, you can easily take steps to get rid of those flaws. On the other hand, knowing about your strengths can make you even stronger. The yogic practice of Svadhyaya enables one to reach one self’s true self by reading sacred texts and meditation.
The yogic Niyamas are especially designed to create inner strength and discipline in human being, so that they know what their true inner self is, and what they can do to make it sublime.