Guide to the 8 Limbs of Yoga: Niyamas: how to treat yourself

Guide to Understanding the 8 limbs of YogaThe first of the 8 limbs of yoga, the Yamas, have to do with the way we behave in the world.  The second limb are the Niyamas, which deal with the way that we that we treat ourselves; how we behave in relationship to personal actions and outlooks.  There are 5 Niyamas.

  1. Saucha is translated as purification or cleanliness. This concept goes beyond keeping your body clean inside and out, it also means keeping a clean mind and a clean environment for living your life.  Try to take in pure foods, substances, thoughts, feelings, and surroundings.  Some people interpret this niyama as one of the main goals of yoga as a whole.
  2. Santosha means contentment. This means being satisfied in the present moment; appreciating what you have at any time.  This also relates to not wishing for more or wishing for what someone else has.  Materialism doesn’t bring happiness.  Santosha means accepting and appreciating what you have, which leads to happiness and joy.  Remind yourself that you are enough.
  3. Tapas is said to mean austerity or self-discipline. This niyama refers to motivation to better yourself.  It is a focused energy and a desire to commit to self-practice.  Tapas creates an internal fire or heat that helps purify and solidify commitment.  This determination helps you reach your goals within yoga and in your daily life.
  4. Svadhyaya is translated as self-study. This means getting to know yourself- your needs, abilities, desires, faults, and nature.  It means wanting to know the deepest, most true form of yourself.  Self-study also gives you room to improve and become the self that you most want to be.  It also helps you recognize your divine nature or the divine within yourself.
  5. Ishvara is said to mean surrender or devotion to God. This doesn’t have to be interpreted as a particular god.  Ishvara means accepting that everything is related and connected.  It means trusting in the universe; surrendering to the greater good or higher power.  Devoting your practice or actions to this higher power allows you to let go of your attachment to your self.  It allows you to recognize something bigger which opens the mind to the concept of the interconnectedness of everything.

With the yamas and niyamas combined, yoga guides our ideal behaviors internally and externally.  Embodying the yamas and niyamas creates a strong foundation within each yogi for moving further into the 8 limbs of yoga.
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