NIYAMA - our personal disciplines
The yamas point out to us how we should relate to the world around us. The niyamas are more concerned with aspects of personal behaviour and practice.
Patanjali again listed five niyamas which are looked
at in more detail below - purity (shauca), contentment (samtosha), asceticism (tapas), study (svadhyaya), and devotion to
the Lord (ishvara-pranidhana).
Other writers listed up to twelve, including - recitation of mantra (japa), sacrifice (homa), faith
(shraddha), hospitality (atithya), worship (arcana), pilgrimage (tirtha-atana), exertion for the good of others (para-artha-iha),
and service to one`s teacher (acarya-sevana)
SHAUCA - This is sometimes seen as a moral cleansing, but more simply we can think of personal cleansing,
both external (bahya) which includes all the physical methods of purification of the body, cleansing the surface of the body,
eyes, intestines etc, and internal (abhyantara) which implies cleansing of the mind.
SAMTOSHA - This is not simply the quiet joy of sitting feeling contented as one might after a good
meal. Samtosha has been described as the `evenness toward hardship and ease,
as well as toward things one has obtained and those that are far from one`s reach.`
It is a joyful acceptance of whatever fate may send. This niyama is often
much at odds with the western philosophy of personal control over our destiny.
TAPAS - In its exaggerated form this can lead to extreme asceticism through bodily austerity. A tapas is a hardship which is endured for a positive good. By self denial we are made more acutely aware of the body, the senses, and how they are under our control
and not vice versa.
SVADHYAYA - This is more than just the reading of books and learning of facts. Through the study of sacred writings and meditation on their meaning, and by study of the response of the
self to practice such as japa, self realisation may be possible.
ISHVARA-PRANIDHANA - In bhakti yoga there is great emphasis on devotion to one`s own concept of
God. This niyama is described as the giving up of all actions, and fruit of one`s
actions to God.
While these restraints might be seen as negative impositions on us, in fact they become positive
aims as we become healthier and more aware of the effects our yoga is having on us physically, mentally and spiritual. Thus a tapas such as walking barefoot on the earth becomes a pleasure as we learn
to appreciate the changing textures and sensations we experience. Spending time
practising meditation becomes enriched as we learn more about our self. Yoga
is invariably positive in its effect. It is life enhancing and not life denying.