The second limb of Patañjali’s 8 Limbs of Yoga is niyamas, internal disciplines that teach us to respect ourselves—body, mind, and spirit. They are forms of self-discipline as well as reflective practices.
The niyamas break down to 5 habits, which help us hone our selves:
- Saucha – purity, cleanliness
- Santosha – contentment, gratitude
- Tapas – discipline
- Svādhyāya – self-reflection
- Īśvara Pranidhāna – devotion
Ways to Practice Niyamas
There are several ways to practice the niyamas, here are a few ideas to get you started.
Saucha - Purity, cleanliness
Many cultures believe that a healthy mind and body promote a healthy spirit. Saucha keeps our body clean on the outside and inside. One way to practice this is by eating cleanly, which promotes health and balanced emotional energy. Another good way to practice saucha is feng shui, the Chinese art of balancing energy in one’s environment, which helps clear energy from our home and boosts our personal energy. It’s amazing how good it feels just to clean up one little area: start with a clutter-free desk to help ignite your creativity.
Santosha - Contentment, gratitude
Praticing santosha means to come from a place of abundance rather than scarcity. It’s knowing that what you have, are, and feel is already good enough. Be grateful for your life the way it is right now. This can be as easy as making a mental list of all the things you are grateful for, or praying or meditating on what makes you grateful. Do this each day and notice the positive affect it has on your life. It is truly amazing how you can take yourself from a bad mood to a good mood by simply reciting in your mind everything you’re grateful for. It really works!
Tapas - Discipline
In the yogic tradition, this means being diligent and committed to yoga and self-work. Through constant practice we will reap the benefits of the 8 limbs of yoga. Tapas is also described as the fire in our bellies that keeps us motivated and on the path. To start, pick one aspect of your life you’d like to change and practice that new way of being for 30 days. For example, meditate for 20 minutes every day for a month.
Svādhyāya - Self-reflection
This is the practice of truly understanding who we are through inner reflection, by reading yoga texts, and by chanting yoga mantras. These methods help inspire us to be the best we can be and support us on our journey. One way to practice svādhyāya is to read some of the ancient yoga texts and more contemporary writings. Consider starting a book club to help enrich your reading experience. Maybe your favorite yoga studio will entertain hosting it!
Īśhvara Prānidhāna – Devotion
Yoga is a way of life, not a religion. Yoga does not try to limit a higher power by imposing certain beliefs, but it does emphasize the divine in each of us. We are all sacred beings. OM is the name of the divine, the sound of the universe, which connects us all together: WE ARE ONE. It is the ultimate mantra, reminding us of our own divinity and the divinity of all life. Chant OM on a daily basis, and make an effort every day to cherish and appreciate all creatures and objects you come across in your life.