Niyamas – second yogic limb

Niyamas are the second limb of Pantajali’s yoga, following on from the yamas. The adelaide yoga purpose of both the yamas and the niyamas is a redirecting of energies, helping us to reduce karma and always move towards clarity. They can all be practised at a psychological level as well as physical. They also provide a solid foundation to move through the rest of the yogic limbs.

The niyamas keep us on a path to self realisation through discipline and are action steps rather than the restraints that are the yamas.

‘The niyamas [are] effective weapons to destroy the citadel of the senses’, Sri Swami Chidananda.

The niyamas are:

Saucha (purity and cleanliness)

Through the purity of cleansing ourselves of our ego self, we are given permission to shine brightly from within, liberating our true nature. Saucha includes bathing to rid the physical being of muck but perhaps more importantly, utilises asana and pranayama for internal cleansing; asana removes toxins and impurities caused by overindulgence (food and drink, negative thinking, pollution, chemicals etc) whilst pranayama helps to purify our nervous system.

Impurities – both in the physical and abstruse – can harm our state of mind and being and block us from accessing that deep spiritual and inner wisdom which can lead us to a space of self actualisation. These impurities can show up as emotions such as hatred, lust, greed, delusion or pride and also as impure or damning thoughts.

Saucha can include practises such as fasting, silence and purging.*

Santosha (contentment)

On an elementary level, this niyama asks that we be happy and grateful with what we have and where we are in any given moment.

The mind can often yearn for things it believes we need in order to be happy but practising Santosha, helps us to unlearn this patterning to find a deeper happiness within that arises when we clear away all the excess “things” and discover what is hiding behind all that wanting.

Rather than being sought after, santosha needs to be cultivated which helps to negate the exhausting grasping we have at life.

‘There is contentment and tranquility when the flame of the spirit does not waver in the wind of desire,’ Light on Yoga by BKS Iyengar, page 38.

Tapas (austerity)

‘By tapas the yogi develops strength in body, mind and character. He gains courage and wisdom, integrity, straightforwardness and simplicity,’ Light on Yoga by BKS Iyengar, page 38.

Tapas can be analogous to fire. The fire of tapas has cleansing properties but this intense element can also take the form of heat, burning effort, a strong mental attitude or an internal fire. All the things that hot yoga can bring you! (quick, book in your next class here)

‘Life without tapas is like a heart without love’, Light on Yoga, BKS Iyengar, page 38.

NB: (I’m not making this up when I tell you that Alicia Keys’ Girl on Fire came on the radio whilst writing this)

‘Tapas is a determined counter-attack against the habitual propensity of the senses to achieve satisfaction, to taste satisfaction.’ The Philosophy, Psychology and Practice of Yoga by Sri Swami Chidananda, page 32

Svadhyaya (self study)

This niyama is about you getting to know yourself and the inner workings of your being and soul, as well as your needs and behaviours. It’s a process to acknowledge the inner darkness as well as the inner light and provide you with the ability to see your true Divine nature that exists within everyone.

The process of turning inwards and practising an education of the self, helps us to become accountable and responsible for our behaviours and actions. The education comes from external forms of study of resources and illuminating ideas, study of the scriptures and japa, as well as an internalising, a listening to yourself and knowing yourself as best as you can (despite this ever evolving process).

‘Life presents an endless opportunity to learn about ourselves; our flaws and weaknesses give us the opportunity to grow and our mistakes allow us to learn. Examining our actions becomes a mirror to see our conscious and unconscious motives, thoughts, and desires more clearly,’ Yoga Basics.

Ishvara pranidhana (surrender to the Divine)

This encourages a complete opening of the heart to the Divine, which is said to lead to Samadhi (which is the last limb of yoga and a higher state of consciousness). This is a surrendering to God (whatever that form takes for you), a letting go and a folding of the ego self. It is more of a softening in to the Universal flow; a relaxing, a releasing of sorts, with which comes an unforced opening and an allowing of the ego to dissolve.

A dedication and devotion to something greater can accompany the surrendering or just a gentle knowing and accepting that the Universe is a complete source of power.

The purpose of both the yamas and the niyamas is a redirecting of energies, helping us to reduce karma and always move towards clarity. They can all be practiced at a psychological level as well as physical. They also provide a solid foundation to move through the rest of the limbs.

Whereas Yama puts a stop to your flow in the downward gross direction,in the animal direction, Niyama has the effect of diverting the flow in the opposite higher direction towards the Spirit. That is the rationale behind Niyama’ Sri Swami Chidananda.

Initial exposure to the yamas and niyamas can be daunting and overwhelming, to say the least, so remember to take them gently, with compassion. Although Pantanjali may have had the intention for them to be followed in a set order, Swami Sri Kripalvanandaji reminds us ‘When you pick one petal from the garland of yamas and niyamas, the entire garland will follow.’

 

Click here to read our post on the yamas.

*please seek the advice of an experience yoga instructor before undertaking these practices. Not recommend for beginners.

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Patanjali: the legend

Legend has it that Patanjali compiled and codified the yoga sutras. The yoga sutras (sutra translating as thread) is considered the fundamental text for practising and living yoga and not just in the sense of asana but with regards to the full eight limbs. Those limbs being yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi. Remember the recent post about one of the limbs, the yamas? yoga adelaide

Patanjali compiled 196 sutras or concise aphorisms that are essentially an ethical blueprint for living a moral life and incorporating the science of yoga into your life. Although no one is sure of the exact time when Patanjali lived and wrote down his sutras, it is estimated this humble physician (who became one of the world’s greatest and most well known sages) roamed India somewhere between 200 BC and 200 AD and that his birthplace was a celestial abode called Ilavrita-Varsha and his mother being Sati and father, Angiras (one of the ten sons of Brahma).

The verses are interconnected and all related together, hence their namesake of sutra (thread). ‘The scripture is regarded as the most precise and scientific text ever written on yoga,’ Four Chapters on Freedom.

He was said to be able to communicate since birth and was believed to be an incarnation of the mythical endless serpent, Ananta. The tradition runs that upon his birth he made known things past, present and future, showing the intellect and penetration of a sage while yet an infant. He married Lolupa, whom he found in the hollow of a tree on the north of Sumeru, and is said to have lived for many, many years. It was also claimed that he once reduced a group of Bhotabhandra residents to ashes by fire from his mouth after being insulted by them.

It was believed he had a variety of talents that included being a physician, dancer, medical intuitive, philosopher and grammarian. There are many uncertainties and skepticism shrouding what Patanjali actually achieved. Given his suspected parentage, he was an accomplished dancer that created classical traditions of dance styles still performed today in India and he is regarded as the patron saint of dance but it is a given in the yogic community that he was the one to package up yoga in the sutras we follow in most yoga lineages today. Although he did not create yoga he was instrumental in bringing it to the world.

Did you know? Patanjali can be roughly translated as ‘falling from heaven’, ‘offering sacred knowledge coming from the heart’ or ‘falling into folded hands’. Read more here.

Some people even purport that Patanjali also wrote a treatise on Ayurvedic medicine with a focus on diagnosis of disease and drugs, the structure and function of the human body and its fitness and its aesthetics.

Often called the “father of yoga”, there is still much mystery surrounding Patanjali and some facts and information have been misinterpreted or diluted over the years, not too dissimilar to that of another legend of man we may be familiar with: Jesus and his teachings.

 

 

 

 

Get to Know Your yogafusion – Emma Hewett-Smiles

Meet the instructor: Emma Hewett-Smiles

yogafusion

When did your yoga journey start? And why did you start?

My yoga journey started at a London gym in 2003. I was doing aerobics plus contemporary and hip hop classes at Dance Works studio and thought I’d give a yoga class a go. The teacher was from New Zealand and I found the class more inline with my former dance/ballet training that I’d grown up with. I realised how much I would need to work to keep it up dancing at the level I was previously at. Yoga was a more practical alternative at the time and more suited to the stage of life as I was entering my twenties.

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What Does Yoga Actually Mean?

Yoga is an all encompassing term which is derived from the Sanskrit word, yuj, which translates in its most simplistic form to yoke. However, the translation isn’t that straight forward and it can mean to bind, union, attach and communion or a culmination of all these words.

With such multifaceted semantics, yoga can also be interpreted as connection, contact, method, application, addition, combination and performance.

On first glance, yoga may appear as a series of stretches and postures but it’s a traditional method of practise, principles and philosophy that aims to bind or yoke the individual together with a higher being or existence.

Another way of looking at the definition of yuj is ‘to direct and concentrate one’s attention on, to use and apply’,Light on Yoga, page 19.

Yoga is both a state and a means to attaining it. Despite the differing styles and ways of practise, there is a common underpinning thread of belief that we, as people, are greater than just a body and mind. Continue reading