Wednesday, August 31, 2016


In my last post, I described the Yamas. This post is the Niyamas, the second of Patanjali's 8 Limbs Yoga. These posts are a series of posts reviewing the 8 Limbs of yoga with the purpose of helping my think through my 2016 Intention of being more "yogic".

The yamas, the first limb are focused on how to treat with beings outside of you, with other people. It talks about being honest, not stealing or not being greedy. The Niyamas are more focused on how you should treat yourself or personal actions. Literally meaning positive duties or observances.

Niyamas नियम

So just like the Yamas, there are five Niyamas:

  1. Sauca
  2. Santosha
  3. Tapas
  4. Svadhyaya
  5. Ishvarapranidhana

So obviously we'll briefly look at these one at a time.

Sauca शौच

Sauca means purity, clarity and cleanliness referring to the purity of mind, body and speech.

Yoga Sutra 2.40: शौचात् स्वाङ्गजुगुप्सा परैरसंसर्गः ॥४०॥

śaucāt svāṅga-jugupsā parairasaṁsargaḥ By purification arises disgust fro one's own body and for contact with other bodies.

So according to Swami Satchidananda, when Sauca is observed we realize that the physical body is just that, just a dirty body. So interest in the body is lost as we focus more on spiritual activities such as meditation or reading spiritual books. This is not to suggest that we neglect the body, but rather realize that it's importance is not it in and of itself but as a tool or vessel with which to pursue the Self. Swami Satchidananda does seem to relate to celibacy and sexual abstinence, in that our disinterest in the body is also disinterest in bringing to bodies together. Later in his commentary he speaks of Ojas and Tejas which are the energies created from stored up sexual energy. I believe this was discussed as well in the Yamas.

The next sutra, 2.41 is also about this purification.

सत्त्वशुद्धिसौमनस्यैकाग्र्येन्द्रियजयात्मदर्शनयोग्यत्वानि च॥४१॥

sattva shuddhi saumanasya ekagra indriya-jaya atma darshana yogyatvani cha - Moreover, one gains purity of sattva, cheerfulness of mind, one-pointedness, mastery over the senses and fitness for Self-realization

Taken together, purification of the body creates a mindset where one is not interested or attached to the body but rather view it as a tool that needs cleaning. Cleaning it, a series of things become possible, one's mind becomes more settled and control over the senses makes on ready to perceive the Universal Self.

Both of these is to to take care of your body not to look good or whatever, but as part of the overall preparation of getting ready for enlightenment.

Samtosha संतोष

Yoga Sutra 2.42 संतोषातनुत्तमस्सुखलाभः ॥४२॥

saṁtoṣāt-anuttamas-sukhalābhaḥ - By contentment , supreme joy is gained.

The question with this Niyama for me is the meaning of contentment. Being content is appreciating what you have, being open and accepting of what comes your way and being good with it. Contentment is a "state of being" not an emotion. Emotions have ups and downs, contentment is stable, accepting of what is. At a later date I'll come back to this specific topic.

Tapas तपस्

Yoga Sutra 2.43 कायेन्द्रियसिद्धिरशुद्धिक्षयात्तपसः॥४३॥

kaya indriya siddhih ashuddhi kshayat tapasah - By austerity, impurities of the body and senses are destroyed and occult powers gained

Tapas is the process of burning off fats, sweating out toxins when applied to movement of the body in our asana practice, but you can burn both mental and verbal impurities as well. Tapas means literally to burn. When we are doing this "burning" there is a feeling of heat and pain. So to practice Tapas is to accept pain and suffering. I love that Satchidananda uses the quote "no pain, no gain".

Svadhyaya स्वाध्याय

Yoga Sutra 2.44 स्वाध्यायादिष्टदेवतासंप्रयोगः॥४४॥

svadhyaya ishta samprayogah - By study of spiritual books comes communion with one’s chosen deity.

This sutra is about studying the scriptures or spiritual study to discover you personal divinity. When the word "deity" is used I tend to think of something external to me. Sri Swami Satchiananda is "By constant effort, we get a vision of the deity connected with our particular mantra, for each mantra has a deity. In other words, each name has a form". What this says to me is that when I am doing a mantra for Ganesh, the form of Ganesh will appear.

I prefer to use Swamij's take on it :

From self-study and reflection on sacred words (svadhyaya), one attains contact, communion, or concert with that underlying natural reality or force towards which one is predisposed. Sva means "one's own," and adhyaya means "entering into" that.

Either way the focus in on the study of scriptures and the written words of a spiritual nature.

Ishvara Pranidhana ईश्वर प्रणिधान

Yoga Sutra 2.45 समाधिसिद्धिरीश्वरप्रणिधानात्॥४५॥

samadhi siddhih ishvarapranidhana - By total surrender to God, samadhi is attained.

So this verse is so important to yoga, and yet so hard for me. Largely because the translation uses the word God in it which is always one of those words to which I have an automatic aversion. Yet if I take that word out and think of it as just being part of something bigger than myself, put into more of a scientific context where we are all just made up of atoms and that my surrendering is to just that it becomes easier to not pull back from this verse. Even Satchiananda says in is commentary "Either give everything to the world, to the community of your fellow people, or give everything to God" seems to indicate I'm thinking about it in the right way.

The point of this is total dedication to whatever it is greater than your self.

Now what?

So if you recall, 8 or 9 months ago I started this process to help figure out how to become more yogic in my life as part of my 2016 intentions. I also had an intention of posting more often this year with the measurable goal of posting more than I did in 2015 (that was the intention whether I explicitly and/or publicly said so). So the idea was to kill two birds with one stone and go through each of the eight arms of the Yoga Sutras. Having finished the first two arms, my next post in this series will be the third arm, or Asana.

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