Continuing the discussion that’s NOT about sex scandals, or how yoga can kill you (ridiculous, by the way), let’s take a look at the personal observances of living a yogic life. Note: if you’re looking for requirements like orgies, brainwashing or other sinister machinations, look elsewhere.
In part one of this series, “On Yoga, Really: Who’s Your Yama,” I talked about the first of Patanjali’s 8 limbs of yoga. The yamas are the rules of life, so to speak, the “commandments” if that’s a parlance you identify with. The Niyamas, or the second limb, are the “rules for living” or “personal observances”. They are a code for living soulfully, as we are a piece of the interconnected mortal coil we call life.
In other words, Yamas are the Precepts of Social Discipline, whereas Niyamas are the Precepts of Invididual Discipline. We adopt these precepts of individual discipline consciously, but through meditation and opening ourselves up to a greater consciousness, these disciplines become an ingrained part of our energetic DNA.
Sauca – Cleanliness or purity. This refers as much to an inner sense of health & clarity of mind achieved through moderation and avoiding impurities of mind.
Where could you be a little “cleaner?” Back to the traffic example, instead of thinking horrible thoughts about the guy that cut you off, just don’t attach or ascribe any thought at all. Better yet, try to dig deep into your heart and send that person love; who knows what their motivation is for being in such a hurry.
Santosa– Contentment or satisfaction. This is the equanimity that sees things as they are, undistorted by expectation, need or fear. This is not to mean spiritual complacency, but acceptance of the external situation we are allotted in this life. Think of santosa as presence and acceptance of WHAT IS.
What are some ways you can allow contentment to arise? How about, instead of getting frustrated that your friend is chronically late and trying to change her behavior, accept that her lateness just is. Can you detach from the emotional response? How about unconditional acceptance of yourself exactly as you are, know that you are perfect.
Tapas – Austerity or Discipline. Often thought of as a deep commitment to your yoga or spiritual practice. Tapas literally means heat, and heat is transformative. When you’re established in your discipline, you can direct your energy wherever you want it to go.
How can you light your fire of transformative discipline? It might be a bit of shock to the system, but try getting up an hour earlier everyday and dedicate the time to some type of physical activity and nurturing spiritual practice (whatever your flavor).
Svadhyaya – Self-study or self-education, spiritually speaking. Svadhyaya is more than just learnedness and acquired knowledge, it’s introspection, a state of self-reflection that allows for the ultimate self acceptance.
Can you go in? I love this quote by poet, Danna Faulds, “Despite illness of body or mind, in spite of blinding despair or habitual belief, who you are is whole.” This is a tough one for me even still. Introspection has typically meant overanalyzing fault and flaw under a microscope. But, the deeper you go inside yourself, the more you realize all we are is space.
And last but not least…
Svara Pranidhana – Surrender of the self to God. Without attaching to what “God” means in terms of different religious connotations, think of it as the acceptance that you are part of a spirituality greater than yourself. Humbling, right?
This is a tough one to ascribe a practice to, though regular meditation will definitely open you up to this reality.
“When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds: Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.”
So, there you have it, the “Thou Shalts” of yoga. How will you dig deep into yourself to cultivate connectedness?
– Your Charmed Yogi