7 Steps for Practicing the 5 Niyamas of Yoga
Ready to add more positivity, strength, and depth to your life? Add the 5 Niyamas to your yoga practice! Here’s how to do it…
According to the 8 limbs of yoga, there are 5 internal practices of observance – called the Niyamas – which extend the ethical codes of conduct described in the Yamas. Practicing these internal Niyamas of yoga on a regular basis helps us to live with positivity, self-discipline, humility, and strength as we progress along the yogic path.
Here are the 5 Niyamas of yoga (read more about each one here):
1.) Shaucha (purification and cleanliness)
2.) Samtosha (contentment)
3.) Tapas (asceticism and self-discipline)
4.) Svadhyaya (self-study and self-reflection)
5.) Ishvara Pranidhana (devotion and self-surrender)
Practicing the Niyamas is both simple and challenging. Just by reading and contemplating the Niyamas, you will naturally begin to practice them. However, aligning your daily thoughts, behaviors, and actions with these guidelines can be quite difficult. For most yogis, learning to implement the Niyamas in your daily life will become a lifelong practice – but it is one that is well worth the effort.
According to this article, “When we practice the Niyamas we are striving towards living a healthier, holier, and more peaceful life and at the same time, we strengthen our powers of awareness, will, determination, and discernment.”
I think we can all agree those are good goals to have for our lives!
For best results, give yourself grace and forgiveness, and approach your Niyama practice without expecting perfection. Here are 7 steps to help you successfully practice the Niyamas in your own life:
- Start with one Niyama. Begin by reading, understanding, and contemplating each of the five Niyamas. As you contemplate how each principle would unfold in your current life, notice your thoughts and emotional reactions to making changes to support each one. You will likely find one or two that have a strong charge for you… Make a clear and conscious choice to dedicate yourself to practicing this Niyama over a set period of time. A good place to start is committing to 40 days of focused practice.
- Start practicing on your mat. Begin to practice the awareness and skillful effort of your chosen observance on your yoga mat. Use your Niyama as the intention or Sankalpa of your practice and let it be the guiding force to how you engage with the breath and the body as you flow from pose to pose. Do not judge when you fail at your attempts, simply vow to try again. Be patient, kind, and compassionate but also dedicated, willful, and focused.
- Reflect and track your progress. Keep a journal or find another method of tracking your commitment and progress. It is quite possible that you will encounter epiphanies or discover powerful insights that will be helpful to document. Reflection and contemplation of your experiences with practicing the Niyamas will also be helpful to further integrate them into your yoga practice and life.
- Deepen your observation and exploration. As you continue to focus on a Niyama while you move through your yoga or meditation practice you will begin to notice patterns and habits to your thoughts and emotions. Spend some time in contemplation to pull on the threads of these patterns to see if you can discern where they originate from. These patterns will most likely be originating from a Samskara, a deeply rooted wheel of suffering. Niyamas are a powerful tool to shine the light of awareness to these dark and murky areas of the self and to help reprogram our Samskaras.
- Take your Niyama off of your mat. Once you are comfortable and competent in using your chosen observance in your yoga or meditation practice, you can begin to practice it in your day-to-day life. As you move out of the controlled and defined environment of your practice, you may feel like you are regressing in your progress. Note any aspects of your life (work, family, relationships, health, money, etc.) that appear to be the kryptonite to your Niyama. If this area is too challenging or overwhelming, give yourself permission to apply your Niyama after you have had success in the other aspects of your life.
- Commit to the next Niyama. Once you feel the challenge and charge of practicing your personal observance have diminished it may be time to commit to another one. As your inner awareness strengthens you may be able to take on more than one Niyama at a time, but it is still advised to not rush the practice of the Niyamas. Before you take on a new one, you may want to reflect on your past experience and decide on any changes or refinements to your approach.
- Keep peeling the onion. The Niyamas are considered a vow you make for the entirety of your yoga practice. Practicing them will get easier over time, but you will probably find that each observance has several different layers of practice and discovery. You may choose how deeply and completely you practice each one—only fully committed enunciates should vow to practice the Niyamas fully and completely. Continuing to peel back the layers of each Niyama will deepen your inner-transformation, strengthen your awareness, and purify your heart and mind.
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