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The Niyamas: One of the pillars of Yoga

When Pantajali systematized yoga, this practice was classified into eight branches. Each of them are more like steps, steps to be taken before reaching the ultimate goal of all yoga practitioners.

Each one goes at his own pace of course, and most of the time you work all these levels at the same time, but especially the first two which are the ethical precepts (Yamas) and the precepts of discipline (Niyamas). These are the pillars of yoga that we partly find in Sauca yoga, and we will explain you why. 

Niyamas and personal behavior

A Woman Holding Balloons

First, we need to know the difference between the Yamas and the Niyamas. The first are the moral rules to follow in society. They allow you to remain in harmony with others, while the Niyamas are personal precepts, kinds of values, that allow you to grow from the micro point of view.

These two concepts are within the framework of the Yogas Sutras which is the reference text of this practice. In Ashtanga, the Yamas and Niyamas are the first two of the eight stages of Ashtanga Yoga, which is the process of self-realization.

In Yoga, the goal is obviously not only physical. Of course, you will progress in flexibility, some persistent pain will eventually go away, but that is not the priority goal. The objective lies in integral change, both physical and spiritual. You are a whole, and therefore a healthy mind in a healthy body.

The 5 types of Niyama 

A Happy Family

Happy and free people are an inspiration to the Yamas. The great sages have observed this assertion for many years, before Patanjali asserted them. Negative actions such as theft, jealousy, gossip or lying never go hand in hand with inner peace. This is evidence of your personal ill-being that is directly reflected in your attitude.

The Yamas focus on how we use our energy in our relationships with others and with ourselves.

  • Ahimsa – non-violence. Develop compassion for oneself and all living things.
  • Satya – telling the truth. Commit to honest communications and actions, so that good relationships are fostered.
  • Asteya – do not fly (literally and figuratively). All appropriation is synonymous with lack, taking only what has been given.
  • Brahmacharya – sense control. Know how to use your energy wisely.
  • Aparigraha – non-possessivity. Do not resist impermanence: let go.

The Niyamas are principles that allow to live by developing benevolence. It’s all about choice, what you eat every day has an impact on yourself.

  • Shaucha – purity. Cultivate the cleansing of the body, mind, heart.
  • Santosha – content. Satisfaction in the immediate experience, acceptance.
  • Tapas – austerity. To know how to direct your energy is to stay the course.
  • Svadhyaya – study of the Self (its true nature). The intention to get to know you through a practice.
  • Ishwarapranidhana – abandonment to what is greater than oneself. Give meaning, special attention to small moments, recognize not being the master of our universe.

Why and how to put them into practice? 

A woman practicing yoga

We talk about mastery of the mind, but why do it? Like Yoga Nidra or Mountain Pose, every movement, every aspect of yoga has a purpose. For the mind, this seems obvious but the goal is to become a better person. No more toxicity, we pass here to positivity, to positively impact our loved ones and indirectly increase the level of happiness around us. Like meditation, it is an extremely effective tool.

Our "usual" inner state is a dispersed state, subject to the dictates of the mind. The latter brings you into the experience of thought, worry, suffering, lack, sometimes positive emotions, sometimes negative and constantly renewed desires.

When you practice yoga or any other activity, the effects will be much more beneficial if you do it in a happy and focused state. Your deep Being and intuition take over your mind.

But concentration is not the innate quality of the
mind… nor is the psychic relaxation of a very mental person.

Yoga is not something that you teach in school and that you learn by heart. That would be too easy. It is a personal experience, an adventure to live alone or together, but always with the aim of evolving and enjoying. If you don’t like it anymore, it’s because you’re doing it wrong or it’s just not for you. There is no harm in this, everyone has his own desires and goals.

The Yoga Sutra says that happiness lies in the absence of parasites in the mind, in its surpassing:

Asanas (postures), Pranayama (breathing), Dhyana (meditation) are effective, but insufficient.

Before addressing them, Patanjali advocated putting into practice the 5 social observances, the Yamas and the personal rules, the Niyamas.

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