In classical yoga, ‘Niyama’ refers to the second limb of yoga that leads to achieving ‘God Consciousness‘. Niyama has to do with self-discipline and spiritual observances. When we learn how to put the 5 Niyamas of yoga into practice, we maintain a positive environment for our growth and develop the self-discipline and inner-strength necessary to progress along the path of yoga. Moreover, these 5 Niyamas are wonderful tools for cultivating happiness, self-confidence, and making every day meaningful.
8 Limbs of Yoga
There are 8 limbs of yoga, and Niyama is the second limb.
The first limb: YAMA
Yama is a set of ethical norms that teaches us to communicate with others in the right way. To be brief, it means one thing: treat people the way you want them to treat you.
The second limb: NIYAMA
The step of forming the self-discipline and uplifting spirituality. This step involves regular visits to temples, meditative practices, a study of nature, thinking and walks.
The third limb: ASANA
Asana means ‘posture’ or ‘pose’. So by saying ‘asanas’ we mean body poses. Yoga practitioners know that our physical bodies are temples for our souls. Body care is one of the most important stages on the path to spiritual growth and enlightenment. Performing certain asanas, a person learns concentration and self-discipline.
The fourth limb: PRANAYAMA
Pranayama is the ability to control your breath. It is a set and a system of special techniques that make it possible to establish a relationship between breath, mind, and emotions. Literally, pranayama translates as ‘extension of the prana’ or ‘breath control”. Pranayama practice allows you to rejuvenate the entire body and prolong your lifespan. We can practice pranayama as a separate type of yoga technique, or use it as a component of the complex of yoga practice.
The fifth limb: PRATYAHARA
‘Pratyahara’ means ‘gaining mastery over external influences’.
The purpose of this limb is to achieve a state of the distraction of the senses from the surrounding reality and the circulation of the gaze and consciousness inside of you. In other words, pratyahara is the ability to concentrate and not be distracted by various external stimuli. This step gives you the vision of the internal systems, understanding what can stop your personal and inner growth.
The sixth limb: DHARANA
Dharana means ‘concentration’ or ‘single focus’. By concentrating and abstracting, we get distracted from external ‘noise’. This is how we can calm down our minds, which distracts us from knowing more than we are able to understand. It helps us to see the limitless of our possibilities. At this stage, there is a skill to slow down the thought process by focusing on sound, image, energy or body.
The seventh limb: DHYANA
Dhyana means ‘contemplation, reflection’ and ‘profound, abstract meditation’. This is the stage of the full development of the properties of meditation and concentration. Conscious inhibition of thought processes allows one to calm the mind, to feel serenity, not to give rise to new thoughts. To reach this stage, you need endurance and strength. For achieving this, you have to put a lot of effort and time.
The eighth limb: SAMADHI
Samadhi is a state of intense concentration that can be achieved through meditation. This is a state of bliss and understanding. On this stage, you extend the boundaries of your Self. You start feeling the connection between the divine origin and all living things, unity with nature and the world.
Samadhi is the highest stage of meditation, in which a person experiences oneness with the universe. In samadhi, the mind becomes still. You become totally aware of the present moment.
What Is Niyama?
As you can see, Niyama is the second limb of yoga. Niyama is the Sanskrit term for duty or observance recommended by yogic philosophy and teaching as part of the yoga path. In the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, he outlines five niyamas as part of the second limb of yoga.
The Five Niyamas are:
- Śaucha (शौच): purity, clearness of mind, speech, body, and soul.
- Santosha (सन्तोष): contentment, acceptance of others, and of one’s circumstances as they are, optimism for self.
- Tapas (तपस): austerity, self-discipline, persistent meditation, perseverance.
- Svādhyāya (स्वाध्याय): a study of self, self-reflection, introspection of self’s thoughts, speeches, and actions.
- Ishvara Pranidhana (ईश्वरप्रणिधान): contemplation of the Ishvara (God/Supreme Being, Brahman, True Self, Unchanging Reality), attunement to the supreme consciousness.
Mastering these 5 Niyamas is necessary in order to practice asanas, pranayama and all other stages of the “eight-step path of yoga”.
If you want to practice Niyama you will need to fully focus on developing self-control. Let me share with you 5 ways to bring niyamas in your daily routine.
5 Ways to Practice Niyamas
Niyama #1: Saucha
As I already said, Saucha focuses on purity, cleanness of mind, speech, body, and soul.
Saucha niyama teaches us to observe perfect purity. A person who practices yoga must observe the purity of his/her own body because it is a temple of the spirit.
The one who practices yoga must keep clean not only his/her physical body, but also the food he/she eats, and the house in which he/she lives.
The most important thing in practicing Saucha is the purity of the soul. In this regard, if a person is really serious about practicing yoga, then he/she should get rid of envy, anger, lust and other negative emotions.
And of course, the speech of yogi should be free from lies, curse, profanity, gossip, flattery, and judgments.
Niyama #2: Santosha
Santosha focuses on contentment, acceptance of others and of one’s circumstances as they are, optimism for self.
Santosha involves the ability to find satisfaction from life, despite all the suffering and losses that we might face.
The main purpose of the second Niyama is to teach us to be happy, friendly to others, and grateful for all that God gives us. The practice of Santosha involves being unattached to the material world and life events while accepting everything that life gives you as lessons.
Usually, we try to avoid situations that give us discomfort. But acceptance means being willing to see the problem and go in the direction that scares you (leaving your comfort zone). If there is something in your life that you avoid, Santosha encourages you to be honest with yourself and admit it. For example, if you are exhausted but don’t admit it, you won’t take steps to heal and recover.
Niyama #3: Tapas
By practicing the third Niyama, we should develop such qualities as austerity, self-discipline, persistent meditation, and perseverance.
Discipline is very important for advancement in yoga practice. Take time for yoga every day: spread out a mat to practice asanas and meditate. Let this be the basis of your consistent practice.
If you practice Tapas, you will be able to fully take control of your desires and obsessions. Eventually, this niyama will help you to overcome your own ignorance.
Niyama #4: Svādhyāya
This niyama focuses on the study of self, self-reflection, introspection of self’s thoughts, speeches, and actions.
In the process of practicing the fourth Niyama, we get engaged in the realization of our own essence. We can also say that Svadhyaya is a so-called ‘prism’ through which can we see the Divine within us.
In this regard, in the process of mastering the fourth Niyama, we should devote ourselves to the study of yogic Sutras, Vedas, other sacred texts, and spiritual literature, as a devotion to our spiritual development.
Choose a text for spiritual reading and devote yourself to reading this book in the morning before watching the news and checking your emails. Let these words that you read be your parting words for this day. Think about these words during the day, and in the evening analyze their impact on you.
Niyama #5: Ishvara Pranidhana
This niyama focuses on the contemplation of the Ishvara (God/Supreme Being, Brahman, True Self, Unchanging Reality), attunement to the supreme consciousness.
The divine principle is universal, even though there are many religions and spiritual teachings. In one way or another, many believe in a power that transcends us, and it doesn’t matter what each of us calls it. Devotion is a key aspect of faith.
The purpose of the last Niyama is to plant in the heart of the disciple the highest degree of piety through which the mind comes to Samadhi.
This Niyama teaches that we should always remember to dedicate the results of our efforts to God so that everything material that is valuable for us turns into a feeling of love for the Supreme.
The Bottom Line
Consciously approach the practice of these niyamas. Practice them only if you feel you are ready for the next step in your spiritual development, not because someone says so.