Niyama is the second limb or constituent of Yoga, which means laws or rules. It contains the five internal practices of Niyama (observance). Niyama can be described as the rules that need to be observed by individuals, at the personal level. It can be divided into five directives - Sauca, Samtosa, Tapas, Svadhyaya and Isvarapranidhana. The niyamas are more intimate and personal, as compared to the yamas. They refer to the attitude that we adopt toward ourselves, as we create a code for living meaningfully. The practice of Niyama helps us maintain a positive environment and gives us the self-discipline and inner-strength necessary to progress along the path of yoga. Read on to explore more on the five niyamas of yoga.
Five Directives Of Niyama
This is the first Niyama or rule of yoga and stands for cleanliness. However, in Patanjali's Yoga Sutra, Sauca has a deeper meaning, with both inner and outer aspects of a person included in it. Outer cleanliness refers to personal hygiene, while inner cleanliness indicates maintenance of a healthy body and mind, with positive thinking. Cleanliness of mind is achieved by the removal of mental impurities, such as jealousy, pride, anger and so on. On the other hand, the purity of body is attained not only by cleaning one's body parts, but also by consuming nutritious foods and following a vegetarian diet.
This is the second rule of Niyama and stands for contentment. It also means accepting the truth 'as it is'. Yoga sutra teaches us that instead of grieving or complaining about the things that have gone wrong, we should accept the truth and learn from it. It aims at helping a person attain a state of calm and happiness, irrespective of what is going on in the outer world.
'Tapas' means the strength of being unaffected by opposites, such as heat and cold, hunger and thirst, sitting and standing, etc. It also refers to the activity of keeping the body fit, or to confront and handle the inner urges without outer show. Tapas also signify cleansing the inner debris existing in the body, through asanas and pranayama. 'Tapas' deals with correct eating habits and breathing patterns. The main purpose of this rule is to make our mind pure and clean.
The fourth Niyama in yoga is Svadhyaya, which means becoming close to oneself, through meditation and self-exploration. The name itself explains the meaning - 'Sva' meaning self and adhyaya meaning 'inquiry' or 'examination'. It refers to knowing more and more about oneself, intentionally. This rule teaches us to give up destructive tendencies. It teaches us to be centered and non-reactive to the dualities, to burn out the unwanted and self-destructive tendencies.
Isvarapranidhana, the fifth rule of yoga, is also known as 'Celebration of the Spiritual'. The simple meaning of Isvarapranidhana is to lay all your actions at the feet of God. Yoga Sutra teaches us to accept the fact that we will not always get what we wish for, in life. We should only be concerned with putting all our efforts in a specific task. As to the end result, it should be left to God. This rule also instructs us to spend some time, each day, in recognition and realization of the omnipresent force (God), which is larger than us and is guiding and directing the path of our life at all times.