So last month I started with step one of the 8-fold path which was the Yamas, or restraints. The second step in the 8 fold path is the opposite of Yamas, known as Niyamas. Niyamas are translated in to English as observations, so the first thing I should go over is what an observation is exactly. Niyamas are created to help cultivate an edifying daily routine and a positive approach to life. The word observation is defined as the act of careful watching and listening. The Niyamas listed in the study guide are intended so that when you watch and listen to yourself, you can create a positive daily routine in your life. The study guide has identified are: Shauca (Purity/cleanliness), Samtosha (contentment), Tapas (Austerity: Mental and physical discipline), Svadhyaya (study of scriptures, and chanting of mantras) and Ishvara-Pranidhana (Devotion to God). These are the second step to the 8-fold path. The last essay I wrote about was about the Yamas, which are the first fold. So in the first fold you see the things that you struggle with restraining, and then in the second fold you find ways to help better your life to where the Yamas come more naturally in your life.
Shauca (Purity/cleanliness): before reading when I look at these words I think very superficially first. I think of hygiene when I think cleanliness. I think of daily showers and taking care of your body. When I start thinking a little bit less superficially I start thinking of whole body cleanses. There are so many different approaches to how to cleanse your body whether it be with teas or water or the newest fad of the juice cleanse. I have never done a cleanse in this sense, but I detoxify every once in a while with milk thistle, and a dandelion honey and lemon diet. When I think of purity I revert back to my early childhood with the saints I learned about when I would go to Sunday school and church. I think of how they never did anything wrong and they were considered so pure that that is why they could see and speak with God or the angels. It also makes me thinking of a pure heart or having good intentions. I like to think that I can make mistakes and that as long as I have good intentions and a pure heart that I can still be a good person. After reading the study guide, I learned that Shauca refers to both internal and external purity. The cleanses are not the only way to keep the inside pure. Eating healthy and good foods are another way to keep you balanced on the inside. The book talks about how mental discipline is needed in order to accomplish this, and I can completely agree. The amount of fast food places and junk food in grocery stores is outrageous. Even restaurants are full of fries and chips and unhealthy choices. I have stayed home to eat for years due to the lack of knowledge of what is going into my food when I go out to eat. I found out recently that more and more places are starting to add bone broth as an option to their menu, because they are realizing how good it is for you. It is important to keep focused and have very strong discipline in order to not fall victim to all of the unhealthy temptations around us.
Samtosha (contentment): I think that this is one of the most important things to keep in mind in our day-to-day living. I have based my career off of this. When people ask me what my goals are in being a personal trainer and yoga instructor, I never answer with the typical answer of getting people in shape. I tell people that I sell self-esteem. I do this by trying everyway possible to have the people I work with become happy with them. I want people to realize their own potential and beauty and harness that because that is where true power comes from. Although I dislike arrogance, I applaud self-confidence. Be confidant in who you are as a person, because that is the only way to be truly happy. When you are happy with yourself, then you will no longer feel inadequate. Feelings of inadequacy are what drive us many times to act out selfishly or negatively towards others. It can drive us to steal or lie or cheat. These feelings can drive us to be violent or greedy and unfair. I found that this happens many times in females, which is why I ultimately want to be able to work with young girls and introduce them to how to find happiness in them. I do not have personal experience with male inadequacy, but I am sure that there are many young boys who could benefit from finding happiness from within. The “male ego” we refer to when a man decides to act out and show off, weather it be for female attention, or to show alpha male qualities towards other men; could be reduced if the man no longer felt the need to prove his greatness to others. If he is truly happy with himself and knows his own worth, then he would not have to show it off in order to get approval and confirmation from outside sources. The book describes samtosha as begin content in ones life situation. This book talks about one has no desire for anything that is not necessary for living; and that this is the key to peace while living in one’s internal state of mind. I do not think that you should want nothing more than what is required to live. Theoretically in order to live there is not much fun required, however I feel as though for a long time I did not have fun. I existed here on earth as a human, walking, breathing, eating, among others; but this was not living. I ate what was necessary, I worked, and I did whatever I needed to wake up another day. This was not living. This was merely existing on earth as just another life form. I had lost everything that made me human and essentially, “me”. I think that in order to be truly “living” one must have fun and feed the soul with an equal balance of the requirements to live, and the things that make you happy and an individual. With a balance in these categories, you can either turn into a zombie like thing existing on our planet, or an unproductive, free spirit, which cannot contribute to society or anything.
Tapas (austerity): This means mental discipline. I touched on this a little bit when I wrote about shauca, however this is a lot more than just having mental discipline with food. Keeping up with daily meditations or prayer, eating healthy, exercising, remaining teachable, finding “me time”, and taking care of responsibilities all take mental discipline. Being able to keep all of these aspects of your life separate, but accomplished in our daily lives is hard. Sometimes you are taking time for yourself, and just do not want to come back to reality and clean the house or go to work or take care of the kids. Sometimes you see a triple layer chocolate peanut butter cake and you would much rather eat that then the healthy dinner you have waiting at home for you. Sometimes you are really wrapped up in a project for work or school and you don’t want to stop and take a breather or stop and take a nap or eat something in order to rebalance your mind and body. It can be hard. I am the best example of becoming wrapped up in a work or school project and completely forgetting about life around me. The study guide says that the easiest way to describe this niyama is self-discipline.
Svadhyaya (the study of scriptures and repetition of divine words): The study of scriptures I understand. I have been a part of different groups where studying a book is something we are told do to do, weather it be with my fellowship, or with my church. However the repetition of divine words does not make sense to me. I would assume that this is used in meditations. The study guide does not go into much description as to what this observation is or how or when you would use it. It just says that spiritual or religious study is recommended on a daily basis. I have a higher power that I call God, whom I get ob my knees and pray to everyday. For a while it was the only thing I knew how to do right. When I had too much on my mind and too much on my plate as well. The only way for me to get my feelings out, my mind cleared and my “to-do” list prioritized was to pray. I pray in a pretty untraditional way too. I am not always kneeling when I pray. I am sitting in the car most of the time, and sometimes I am in the shower. I don’t use words lie thee or thy or thine. I talk to my God like I would talk to my friend, and mentor; that is what he is to me. He is a friend who helps to guide me through life. All I have to do is believe in him and let him lead me. I agree with the book saying that praying is something that you should do everyday.
Ishvara-pranidhana (devotion to God): This I can understand, because it is what I was talking about Svadhyaya. Allowing God to take the lead in your life and help you get where you are. You can try as hard as you would like, but you can never do what your God can do for you, because your God (no matter who or what he is to you) is a higher power, which you, unfortunately fall short of being. The Study guide talks about how yoga itself does not use the word God, which is understandable since yoga is not a religion and it accepts all religions. I am used to calling my God simply my higher power. The study guide says that one should keep God in mind though through your everyday actions. I feel as though is if, if you can follow through with the Niyamas, that you are keeping some kind of higher power in your intentions.
My goal is continue takeing you through the 8-fold path month by month so that as you want to take your yoga practice to a new level, the path becomes more clear and you can see how yoga is more than just poses, but a way of life.