The Niyamas

The second limb of the path is to deepen your connection to the outside world by embracing positive action and attitude.

Saucha: Cleanliness

Practicing saucha is to be physically clean – nails, hair, teeth, clothing – and also to practice clean thoughts and clean eating.

Clean thoughts are kind, honest and compassionate.

Clean eating is ingesting foods whose presence has not caused harm. Often, this means eating as close to the source of the food as possible. In our modern food chain, understanding where food comes from is complex and one person’s harmful food is another person’s idea of peaceful food. For example, if you live in a place of abundant fish and game, converting to veganism may be incongruent if the vegan soy and lentils have been shipped thousands of kilometres.

Examine your relationship to the food chain and determine what clean eating means to you.

Physical cleanliness is washing regularly and keeping your clothes clean. It’s important to be clean when you teach. Have a clean set of clothes specifically for teaching, brush your teeth and wash your hands before teaching. If possible, bathe before you teach a class. 

Santosa: Contentment

The practice of santosa is to seek happiness and joy from within. Contentment comes from acceptance of your place in the world and living fully in the present moment. It means avoiding the sense of loss that comes from coveting objects, relationships and other unnecessary attachment.

Although santosacan be interpreted to mean abandoning all material possessions and retreating to a cabin in the forest, the true challenge of santosa is to maintain a physical presence in the material world and find contentment from within.

Practice contentment even in the face of pain, sorrow, loss, even joy. Apply discipline to be content in the face of all worldly experiences, whether they be exhilarating or debilitating.

Tapas: Austerity

Tapas means to generate heat. Like all niyamas, this one is subject to a variety of interpretation. One interpretation is a sense of control over extremes. The yogi feels neither heat nor cold and is simply able to tolerate fluctuations in pleasure and pain.

Feeling hot or cold is contingent on a combination of climate and clothing, but the point is the practice of tapas teaches you to tolerate extremes in pain and pleasure without reacting. Tapas, thus, can be interpreted to mean consistency in daily life.

Svadhyaha: Self-study

As you work through the yamas and niyamas, it becomes necessary to implement the teaching into practice. Svadhyaya is the start of a practice of meditation and a tool to develop control over thoughts, words, emotions and actions. The study of the self is an ongoing discovery of your responsibilities to yourself and to the world around you. Self-study results in a theoretical approach to devotion to a universal presence.