The Eight Limbs of Yoga- Niyama the Second Limb


IMG_0219When I first heard that there were eight limbs of yoga, I imagined the eight armed Hindu goddess Durga and had NO interest whatsoever in learning anything about them.  I wasn't interested in the religious nature of Yoga... I wanted the health and fitness and flexibility that I knew was possible with diligent practice and dedication. Fast forward five years, only to learn that the eight arms of Yoga have NOTHING at all to do with Hinduism, an eight armed goddess or any other off the wall rationalization I could have fabricated...  Oops... What the eight limbs are, are a set of guidelines or precepts as to how one should treat themselves and others.  The eight limbs are there to aid in ones yogic journey, if that is the road one decides to take.  Studying Yoga does not predicate ones adherence to, or acceptance of any of the limbs.  To that end, it is also worth pointing out that these guidelines are perfectly in line with my Christian upbringing.  For instance, the first limb- Yama.  The Yama's are guidelines regarding one morality towards others, or more simply, the way a person should treat those around him or her.  Hmm...  The first thing that came to my mind was: Do onto others...  But, I digress. The second limb is Niyama. Niyama are guidelines not about the way one is to act, as with Yama, but how one should think. Niyama encourages the practitioner to have an honest internal dialogue about the person they are meant to be. There are five qualities that outline the attitude one should consider to help achieve this arm of Yoga. The first Niyama is Saucha, or purity. I have read numerous interpretations of Saucha, but believe it to be a choice to bring to the body that which will nourish and sustain it. By choosing to live a ‘clean’ and healthy life one can further themselves in all areas of their practice, whether it be mental, physical, spiritual, or emotional. The second Niyama is Santosa or Contentment. By actively pursuing Santosa one chooses to live in the moment and appreciate that which he or she has. One can never be happy until they relinquish the need to be more than who and what they are. The third Niyama is Tapas or Discipline. Tapas is the idea that a yogi can achieve strength of the body, mind and character through exercise and by living a pure and healthy lifestyle. Tapas takes conscious and all consuming effort to achieve. The fourth Niyama is Svadhyana or Spiritual Exploration. Svadhyana is, at its core, the need for one to look inside or, to evaluate ones self. The fourth Niyama enables a practitioner to better appreciate his or her own Yogic path and to have the self confidence to allow the spiritual, mental and emotional lessons that ensue. And finally, the fifth Niyama is Isvara pranidhana or Surrendering to the Divine. Dr. David Simon said it best, that Isvara pranidhana is, “Surrendering to the wisdom of uncertainty… and embrac(ing) the unknown.” In doing so, we allow, “transformation, healing and creativity (to) unfold.” (Page 6, ‘A New Look At Yoga: Emploring The Eight Limbs of Yoga’.) In short, Isvara pranidhana is allowing ourselves to fully experience the joy of doing ‘well’ and ‘doing good’. Please understand that I'm doing my best to offer a quick, and hopefully enticing glimpse, into the eight limbs.  In no way, shape or form, is this a comprehensive or even thorough guide to the limbs.  What I have shared here hardly scratches the surface of a path of self discovery and growth that can be truly rewarding.  So, if you have read anything here that sparks your interest, please dig a little and read more about them on your own.  I truly believe you won't be disappointed. Hope to see you back soon!  /S.

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