The second limb of Patanjali's Eight Limbs of Yoga is Niyama. (Read Part 1, an introduction to the 8 Limbs and all about the Yamas here.) With this second layer, we dig a little deeper into ourselves.
The Niyamas are similar to the Yamas, but they're more personal. The word Niyama breaks down to Ni + Yama, and depending on your favorite translations, Ni can be in, into, within, back, down. I like to think of the Niyamas as the ME version of the yamas.
Like the Yamas, there are 5 Niyamas: Saucha = cleanliness or purification, Santosha = contentment, Tapas = internal fire, discipline, drive, or motivation, Svadhyaya = self-study or study of texts, and Isvara Pranidhana = surrender to the divine, or letting go of what you can't control. We can practice the Niyamas both on and off our mats, and like everything in life, some will come easier than others.
As a yoga teacher I always shower before I teach (and practice) so I'm clean for my students, but I'm terrible about dropping an occasional F-Bomb; I curse like a sailor. Language is one area in which I'm really working on saucha. I've learned to practice gratitude when I'm in a funk to find contentment, santosha, and constantly remind myself that I am exactly where I'm supposed to be. Each month I do a goal-setting check-in with one of my friends, Sheri Matthews, and we set reachable short and long-term goals; those sessions keep my tapas going! I'm constantly practicing svadhyaya, noticing what thoughts come up for me, reactions before they become actions, how my daily schedule and eating habits affect my energy level. And while isvara pranidhana is the hardest one for me to practice, I try to remind myself that the only person I can control is myself and that after I've done what I can do, I have to let go.
How do you practice the Niyamas?! Find your own versions with this Niyama Flow!
I just started a new series of free yoga classes on my YouTube channel that focuses on the seven chakras. These energetic centers of the body are situated along the spine, or sushumna nadi, and correspond to different physical, emotional, and mental qualities. The word chakra translates to wheel, and they can be imagined as vortexes or swirling balls of energy.
The idea of chakras can be super hippy dippy or way "out there" for some people. They're one of those concepts that some people LOVE and other people are skeptical about. It wasn't until I actually experienced the chakras that I was able to really embrace the idea of them, and I'm hoping through these classes that I can help others find some clarity. There are key organs and bundles of nerves situated around each of the chakras, so while science may not talk about them, there is anatomical proof of something going on there.
There are so many great resources on chakras available. If you're interested I definitely recommend reading more (email me for suggestions!), but practice along with the videos for a basic overview and chakra balancing!
1. Root Chakra - Muladhara. Located at the base of your spine, associated with the color red and survival: food, housing, safety.
2. Sacral Chakra - Svadhisthana. Located between your hips in the lower abdomen, associated with the color orange, creativity, emotions, and relationships.
3. Navel Chakra - Manipura. Located above your navel (also known as solar plexus chakra), associated with the color yellow, self-confidence, and personal drive.
4. Heart Chakra - Anahata. Located in your chest, associated with the color green or pink, love, and compassion.
5. Throat Chakra - Vishudda. Located in your throat and mouth, associated with the color turquoise and self expression.
6. Third Eye Chakra - Ajna. Located between your eyebrows, associated with the color indigo, intuition, imagination, and thinking.
7. Crown Chakra - Sahasrara. Located at the crown of your head, associated with the color white or gold, connection to a higher power, and bliss.
My 100 Day Project is WRITING! After years of calling myself a writer, I've slowly fallen out of the habit of writing every day. Sometimes I lack inspiration, sometimes my to-do list takes over my day, and sometimes I'm just lazy or distracted . But the reality is that I'm always writing in my head. I have stories, funny conversations, and ideas to share, so it's time to get them out of this brain of mine. I'll be traveling quite a bit throughout these next 100 days, so my posts may not make it online at the time of writing, but I'll make sure they get posted the next possible time I get decent wifi.
In honor of starting this 100 days of writing, I wanted to explore the idea of habits, both building new habits and breaking old habits. I've spent the last week or so at my parents' house, and it's funny (and sort of annoying) how quickly I've slipped back into habits I had at 21, the last summer I really lived here, just by virtue of being in this house. For the past couple of years I've gotten so used to living my life on my own terms that it can be an interesting challenge to try to mix my routine and habits with those of my family. But as a people lover and former sociology major, it's always interesting to observe others' patterns and day-to-day existence.
For me, building new habits isn't that hard; when I want to do something I just do it (eat your heart out, Nike!). I've learned how to motivate myself and that I need to write down whatever it is I want to do in my planner and remind myself why I'm doing it. When I genuinely want something I can usually find a way to make it happen (or at least make whatever part of it is within my control happen) - that's part of being me. It's the breaking habits part that's the real challenge. I easily run on auto-pilot and too often my default activity is something I don't even really want to do, it's just a nasty habit I've picked up along the way that I can't kick. (When pausing between sentences to write this, I find myself clicking on all the other open tabs on my browser, getting distracted by emails and other to-dos, and scrolling mindlessly through Instagram...no reason why, no joy from it, just clicking and scrolling.)
I'm slowly learning to reframe the breaking of habits as building better, positive habits. Instead of stopping something or obsessing over the negative, I'm redirecting that energy or impulse into doing something positive. So rather than breaking the click and scroll habit, I'm building the habit of more focused writing where I allow myself to sit, think, and be when nothing comes to me. I'm giving myself the space and time to write without piling on all the other things I could or should be doing.
I worked in corporate wellness for several years and we used to tell our clients that it takes 28 days to create a habit, so we'd encourage month-long challenges and programs to influence behavior. I'm stoked that this is 100 days, because that means I'll REALLY solidify these new habits, right? The most successful programs we ran included personal motivations and built support and accountability systems with coaching. For these next 99 days, I'm counting on the online community of #The100DayProject participants to keep me motivated and accountable. Here we go!
Helen's Adventures as a Traveling Yogi
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