The 5 Niyamas
Śaucasantoṣatapaḥsvādhyāyeśvarapraṇidhānāni niyamāḥ||2.32|| Yoga Sutras 2.32
Sometime between the 2nd and the 5th century BC, the great sage Patanjali wrote down the Yoga Sutras. This text became the main source of Raja Yoga (the meditation Yoga). It describes the human psychology in a very concise, condensed, even scientific way, and it offers a practical system of spiritual evolution.
Raja Yoga as presented by Patanjali has 8 stages, some of which are examined in practice in a yoga class: The first and the second one are called Yamas & Niyamas, and they concern behavior rules. After them, there is Asana (steady and comfortable pose), Pranayama (control of the prana using breath as the main too), Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses from the external environment, Dharana (focus), Dhyana (meditation) and Samadhi (superconscious experience).
The first step (the 5 yamas) is about rules regarding how to socialise with other people (nonviolence, honesty, non-theft etc.). On the contrary, the 5 niyamas are about practices of inner discipline and exercise, and they provide guidance about how we relate to our own self.
The 5 Niyamas:
Saucha (purity: physical, emotional and mental)
Santosha (completeness, satisfaction)
Tapas (discipline, purification, austerity, sacrifice)
Swadhyaya (self-knowledge, self-study)
Isvara Pranidhana (tradition, faith, dedication to something superior)
The Niyamas are not a list of obligations, but a reminder that real freedom comes through discipline. It is an invitation and at the same time, a list of tools, so that we can experience a calm, harmonious and blissful inner state. They reflect a more connected, conscious and pure expression of our personality, and they create a fertile environment in which we can mature and evolve.
Exercising the Niyamas is a wonderful practice on its own. Cleanliness at all levels (Saucha), the sensation of completeness regardless of the circumstances (Santosha), the discipline of instincts and the conscious austerity regarding material comforts (Tapas). Inner search (Swadhyaya) and faith and dedicated surrender to something beyond us (Isvara Pranishana). All of those things, if practiced with consistency and honesty, can become an extremely transformative process of self-knowledge and purification.
By Anastasia Biliri,
οf the Yoga Neda Shala Team