Hello dear searching souls!
Lets gather our thoughts and focus on the second limb of yoga. In the previous post I've written to explain what Yamas represent - the first limb of yoga in the context of our practice on the mat.
In this post I will write about Niyamas - the second limb of yoga and its relation to our practice of asanas on the mat. Niyamas are the 'dos', which means they are the core values of a yogi that aspires to reach higher levels of consciousness. There are 5 Niyamas, just the exact same as Yamas, and they include:
Shoucha, the first yogic value, means the purity of mind, and translates into the practice of asanas as the purity of your intentions, why you come to practice yoga, and what are your reasons for keeping with it. It is worth to think about it because practising yoga gives us not only a beautiful & slender body, but also clears the mind from unnecessary, negative thoughts, acting as a morning shower, but used on our mind, washing the mind away of negative thoughts excess. Not everybody realises it, maybe not at the beginning, and comes to a yoga class to simply look better. Well, whatever the reason, it will eventually be realised, what is the true purpose of practising yoga.
The second Niyama is called santosha, which means satisfaction or contentment. This is a simple yogic advice to always try to be satisfied with what you have, where you are, and what situation you find yourself in. Simply always try to do the best you can, with what you have! In the context of the practice on the mat it means not comparing yourself to others, being fully involved with your practice and showing satisfaction after every little positive change in it.
The next Niyama is actually my favorite one, and I try to listen to it as often as I can. It is an important foundation of the yogic practice- Svadhyaya- which means self-observation. This is one of the most relevant yogic values, which advises us to look inside and listen to oneself. Pay attention to the quality of your inner dialogue. When you are alone, what do you really believe in? Is it a positive conversation which you are having with yourself? In practice on the mat this means simply following your breath, and observing how it changes from shallow to deep, or vice versa. When you focus deeply on your breath while performing asanas, you are sure that you are practising yoga, and not only stretching. Yoga is a deep practice and without your full attention on your own breath, it is no longer called yoga, but stretching.
Tapassu it is the name of yet another Niyama, and it is a yogic advice that tells you that only your sincere and long-term commitment to the practice will change your negative and long sustained habits or negative thought patterns. Only with your full commitment to the practice you can calm the mind and strengthen the body and notice permanent results. The practice of yoga is not a one day event, but rather a long-term commitment, few tears and lots of joy!
The last Niyama is called ishvarapranidhana, rather a long and confusing name, but meaning something very simple: listening to your internal voice. In reality we know best what is really good for us, and what can give us a lot of trouble. In practice, this means following your own path. Listening to what your inner voice has to tell you also works on your mat, when you simply start to listen to your own body. Take one asana at a time and try to master it, rather than pushing through a series of them and injuring your body in the same time.
All the above Niyamas, just like the Yamas, are here for us to help us in a moment of doubts, stagnation, or seeking advice on how to practice in the best of possible way, trying not to hurt oneself, but rather going smoothly and consistently: growing with the practice.
We need to understand this ancient knowledge of yoga in order to use it in our own practice, it's here to support us and lead us slowly to the days when stress and the problems of the mind will no longer be so important to us, and deep deep down, this is why we practice yoga for.