Niyamas (Five personal observances)
- Shaucha (purity or cleanliness)
This refers to cleanliness – both inner cleanliness and outer cleanliness. Cleanliness inside the body is important for healthy organs and clarity of mind. Cleanliness outside the body refers to generally keeping ourselves clean and tidy. Asanas are excellent for removing toxins from the body, pranayama cleanses the lungs, oxygenates the bloodstream and calms the nerves and meditation cleanses the mind of negative thoughts. Other cleansing practises or ‘shatkarmas’ such as the intenstinal wash will encourage good bowel movement and jala netti is helpful in cleansing the sinuses.
- Santosha (contentment)
This refers to being at peace with oneself and being content with what we’ve got, even when life gets difficult. This is an inspirational niyama because being happy with what you’ve got is far better than being unhappy about what you haven’t got.
- Tapas (disciplined use of energy)
This refers to keeping fit, being disciplined in how we use our bodies, being careful about eating habits, posture, and breathing. This way of looking at life helps one to maintain a healthy lifestyle and feel good about one’s own body.
- Svadhyaya (self study and self examination).
This refers to self awareness and self reflection. Being self aware is key to self development and growth and will eventually lead to union with all things; without this one would be unaware of one’s affect in the world.
- Isvarapranidhana (worship of God).
There are a number of different ways of understanding this according to one’s own beliefs. Indian philosophers view God as not being different from man, calling him Paramatman. However, many people believe in an omnipresent and separate God, whereas others would say that God is within oneself. No matter what your religious views, Yoga will bring you closer to whatever you believe in.