Niyama ( is a set of behaviors codified as "the observances" in numerous scriptures including the Shandilya and Varuha Upanishads, Hatha Yoga Pradipika by Gorakshanatha, the Tirumantiram of Tirumular and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. All the above texts list ten Niyamas, with the exception of Patanjali's work, which lists only five. They comprise the "shall-do" in our dealings with the inner world, and Swami Vivekananda describes them as the second step of Raja yoga (Sanskrit: राज योग).
The niyamas are the second constituents of Ashtanga Yoga. How we interact with ourselves, our internal world. The niyamas are about self-regulation—helping us maintain a positive environment in which to grow. Their practice harnesses the energy generated from the cultivation of the earlier yamas. According to sage Yajnavalkya, there are ten niyamas and the Bhagavad Gita lists 11 constituents. But Patanjali names only five:

• Shaucha or purity,
• Santosha or contentment,
• Tapa or austerity,
• Swadhyaya or self-education and
• Ishwar-Pranidhan or meditation on the Divine

Shaucha implies both external as well as internal purity. In the words of sage Manu, water purifies the body; truthfulness the mind; true knowledge the intellect and the soul is purified by knowledge and austerity. It advocates the practices of intellectual purity, purity of speech and of the body.

The second niyama is that of contentment, which is described as not desiring more than what one has earned by his honest labor. This state of mind is about maintaining equanimity through all that life offers. Santosha involves the practice of gratitude and joyfulness—maintaining calm at all costs. This state of mind does not depend on any external causes.

Austerity, the third niyama, is described in Yoga philosophy as power to stand thirst and hunger, cold and heat, discomforts of place and postures, silent meditation and ritual fasts. It also maintains that the perfect man is he who practices both mental as well as physical austerity.

According to the commentator Vyas, self-education or swadhyaya consists of scriptural studies. The scripture being, the Vedas and Upanishads together with the recitation of the Gayatri Mantra and the Om mantra.

Commentators describe Ishwar-Pranidhan, the last of the niyamas, as the dedication of all our actions, performed either by intellect, speech or body, to the Divine. The results of all such actions are by definition, therefore, dependent upon Divine decision. The mortal mind can simply aspire to realize the Divine through dedication, purification, tranquilization and concentration of the mind. This Divine contemplation spills over to all aspects of the yogi's life.

The ten traditional Niyamas are:

1. Hri: remorse, being modest and showing shame for misdeeds;
2. Santosha: contentment; being satisfied with the resources at hand - therefore not desiring more;
3. Dana: giving, without thought of reward;
4. Astikya: faith, believing firmly in the teacher, the teachings and the path to enlightenment;
5. Ishvarapujana: worship of the Lord, the cultivation of devotion through daily worship and meditation, the return to the source;
6. Siddhanta shravana: scriptural listening, studying the teachings and listening to the wise of one's lineage;
7. Mati: cognition, developing a spiritual will and intellect with the guru's guidance;
8. Vrata: sacred vows, fulfilling religious vows, rules and observances faithfully;
9. Japa: recitation, chanting mantras daily;
10. Tapas: the endurance of the opposites; hunger and thirst, heat and cold, standing and sitting etc.

Saucha - Purity
The first of the 5 niyamas is Saucha or purity. This might manifest in your life in lots of ways.

You might be working on purifying your body. Some people fast to do this or just eat certain foods.

You might be purifying your relationships. Maybe meditating on what is pure and whole for you. Maybe letting go of some toxic people in your life to make room for something more pure.

You might be purifying the air that you are breathing. Perhaps bodies of people with breathing problems or allergies are learning the lesson of purity by reacting to impure substances in a way that makes life difficult.

And what about those "impure thoughts"?

Does the niyama of Saucha/Purity speak to you? Is this a lesson that is calling to you to work on? Or is purity not a big deal to you. Ivory soap made a a lot of money out of 99 and 44/100ths percent pure, but they never said pure what?

A yoga posture to try to facilitate saucha is the seated Ardha Matsyendrasana or the half spinal twist. This posture is like squeezing out a washcloth, releasing the old, and then making space for the new to enter our body.

Santosh - Contentment
The second niyama is called Santosh or Contentment. This one made a big impact on me. When I feel content, things just don't bother me. I feel peaceful when I am content.

In class the other day, someone said for them contentment feels like being full and not needing any more. And to someone else, they said that contentment was like being empty and not needing anything. Just the simplicity of it. So, contentment to me means being empty and being full at the same time.

How does contentment show up in your life? Is it taking a walk in nature. Is it resting in the sun? Is it petting your cat or dog? Is it eating a good meal, but not getting that full and bloated feeling? Is it holding hands with someone you love? Is it sitting here and reading a message that resonates within you?

One of the keys, I think, to Santosh, is to live in this moment. To be present. Not to focus on what you should have done or what you expect to do. Just be in the now.

Contentment isn't an easy place to find. Especially in this modern world. People are always pushing the latest and greatest new thing, trying to make us discontent with what we have. TV commercials are one of the greatest offenders to our feeling content. Maybe they are our tests?

Then again, maybe it is good to not be content and to seek something greater in life. How will be grow and learn if we just settle for contentment?

A yoga posture to try here is Virasana or the Hero posture. This is one that I find difficult. So, if I can sit in Virasana and find contentment, maybe I will understand that contentment is not always an easy place. And, can I be content, if I don't do Virasana in the picture-perfect way? Can I be content if my body prevents me from getting where I think I want to be?

So where are you with this idea of contentment?

Tapas - Austerity
Tapas is austerity or discipline. Often we think about discipline as what we should or shouldn't do for some desired outcome. For instance, if you want to quit smoking, you discipline yourself to not take a cigarette. If you want to lose weight, you discipline yourself to eat better. If you find you are tired in the morning, you might discipline yourself to go to sleep earlier. There are lots of examples where you set up rules to follow when you want a desired outcome and thereby discipline your behavior.

Here is another way to look at that kind of discipline. Discipline is remembering what we want and acting accordingingly. If what I want is a healthier body, then when I am offered food or drink that would be unhealthy, I would think "Is this what I want?". I remember what I want is that healthy body and then I no longer want that piece of chocolate. If I have decided that my body would be served by that piece of chocolate right now, I may take it.

If what you really want is a new computer and you need money for that, then Tapas reminds you to save the money that you might have squandered on something that isn't necessary, because you really want that new computer. So, remembering what you want is discipline.

When this question was put to me "What is it that you really want"? My answer was I want to love myself and release myself from negative thoughts and self judgement. This is what I want. So, my way of practicing TAPAS or discipline is when I begin to have a negative thought or when I start judging that I am not as good as I think I should be, I remember what I want. I want to release myself from this thought pattern. So remembering what I want is being kind to myself.

Discipline doesn't always have to be something harsh. It doesn't have to be something that you follow because you think you ought to act in a certain way. It is how you care for yourself. What is it that you really want? Remember it.

A yoga posture to try for Tapas is Adho Mukha Shvasana or downward facing dog. This is also called the tent posture. When doing this posture, I really focus on my body and remembering to press my hips up and my legs back. It is an active posture in that it takes strength to hold this posture.

How does Tapas show up in your life?

Swadhyaya - Study
The next Niyama is Swadhaya which means study or self study. One focus of this niyama is learning from our own lives. We are our own teachers. Lessons abound for us. There is a reason that we are here in this life now and part of that is to learn.

Since I no longer attend formal schooling, to me swadhyaya is mostly learning the lessons and studying on my own from my experiences. But, there are other ways to study. And we are at the time when people who attend school are returning to school so they see "study" as something more formal.

How does Swadhyaya show up for you in your life? What are you studying? How do you study? Who is your teacher? Is study a part of your everyday life? How do you know when you have learned it all and can move on towards a new lesson to learn?

Do you feel a pull in a certain direction to learn and study? Is study important to you (it doesn't have to be)?

I honor the teacher within me. I am my best teacher. I am my best student. Life is my classroom. But I learn from so many aspects of life. I learn from the hurts and the successes (more from the hurts and failures, though). And I learn from formal study, too. I learn a lot about me and my life from yoga and from the path that I have chosen. Still, I have so much to learn. Swadhyaya lasts a lifetime ... or all lifetimes.

A yoga posture to try for Swadhyaya is Urdhva Mukha Shvasana or upward facing dog. This, combined with downward dog, makes the "yogi push-ups".

Tell us ... share with us ... Swadhayna ....

Ishvar Pranidhana - Surrender
The final niyama is Ishvar Pradidhana which means surrender. How does surrender show up in your life? In yoga postures, the posture of yoga mudra when your head is below your heart is a symbol of surrender.

Life gives us lots of opportunity to learn about and practice surrender. Usually, it occurs later in life when we learn about this lesson :). Surrender to the universe or to the Divinity (if that fits your beliefs) and ask for guidance. Believing in the goodness of nature and the divinity in all things is an act of surrender. Believing that we have done all that we can and then trusting that things will work out is definitely surrender.

I think when we sit in meditation we are practicing surrender.

What does surrender mean to you? Can you see it as something desireable or does it appear as a weakness? Do you see surrender as love for yourself and love of the divine aspects of the Universe (or Universal oneness)?

A final yoga experience to try for Ishvar Pranidhana, the surrender Niyama, is free flow. Listen to your body. Surrender to the needs of your body. Relax into life and surrender to your own inner knowing. Or sit in silence and allow all these thoughts to integrate in your mind.

So, to develop a deeper spiritual understanding of yourself, perhaps you might choose just one of the yamas or niyamas. Choose one that is important to you. Choose one that "calls" to you. And try to incorporate it in your life. And, as Bapuji says, doing one will lead you to an understanding of all.



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