Did you know that getting on your yoga mat to move your body physically is barely practicing yoga at all? In fact, it's just 1/8 and number 3 on the list of yoga's actual lineage intention in being a life science. Number 2 on the list, according to deeply honoured sage, Patanjali, are your niyamas: translating from Sanskrit to mean moral codes/observances or internal disciplines.
Yoga is a path to the inner world, that starts through outer perception. To practice yoga as an all encompassing approach to life, not just jumping on your mat a couple of times a week, is to practice spirituality in a scientific way. As we explore our own personal eco systems through yoga, we become more mindful of its interrelation to not only others’ eco-systems, but also the planet’s. And without awareness of any spiritual dimensions of life, we are living impoverished lives. The more we can incorporate the virtues of curiosity, consideration and appreciation into our yoga and indeed our life, the more space there is for divine wisdom to make itself known.
One of the first steps in using yoga as a tool to enrich your life is to understand more about yoga philosophy's niyamas, the official second step on the path. Here is our mini and memorable mantra based guide to using yoga’s moral codes (the niyamas) and how following this part of yoga’s ancient linage can and will enhance your relationship with your internal world.
Tapas alludes to our internal fire that drives motivation, trumps criticism, bolsters confidence but most importantly, purifies arrogance and delusion. Tapas seeks to strengthen our inner integrity with discipline, for example sticking diligently to a daily routine, knowing your potentiality to achieve goals through hard work or just generally not succumbing to indolence. Mantra: "Through discipline, I generate the internal fire that burns away impurities and sparks divinity within."
Ah, happiness. Santosha speaks to the everyday, to the present, to a lack of yearning. Yogic daily doses of contentment are found in the small things, the harmony of the humdrum, regularity of routine the beauty of the banal. Santosha teaches that contentment is not only ultimately within, but actually everywhere around and it’s the attitude of awareness that enables you to see it straight. Mantra: "I will master the art of living. I have mastered the art of living."
This niyama can also translate to mean “purity” from Sanskrit. We can obviously and rightfully interpret this to mean personal hygenine, maybe even self care and maintenance, but mainly saucha preaches cleanliness of mind. Choosing different thoughts to think if one is “unclean”, not thinking badly of others and maybe even exercising what your Grandma will have taught you: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it. Mantra: My mind is clean. My fundamental essence is transcendent, pure, unchanging and whole."
Svadhyaya encapsulates all the yamas and niyamas as it encourages you to look and shift inward to change your outer conduct as well. Assessing our own psyche and behaviour is key for not only personal, but also spiritual evolution as observing the way we navigate through the world leads to a deeper understanding of life. Mantra: "With virtuous observance, I search for meaning."
Ishvara Pranidhana: devotion to a higher power
The last inner observance of the yogic basic philosophy system is, certainly not least: recognising the source. Devoting every act and observance in your personal universe bound by your human skin to operating as a child of god/the universe and the divine cosmos at large. The ultimate niyama mantra: I offer the fruits of my practice to a higher power. I contain the divine source of life, within."