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.
One of the first emails I send to my yoga teacher trainees before they join me for a training includes the question “What is yoga to you?” The common translation of yoga is “union,” or “to yoke.” Some people will tell you yoga is a union of body, mind, and spirit, others will tell you it’s a religion. For every 10 people you ask, you’ll get 10 different answers. I find yoga to be such a personal practice that I struggle defining it one way. For me yoga is a way of life; it’s self-discovery, exercise, therapy, meditation, and medicine. It’s a spiritual practice that connects me to something greater; it’s a physical practice that grounds me and makes me appreciate the strength and power of my body; it’s both challenging and fun. Yoga is what I turn to when I feel like my life is going to shit and it’s how I celebrate beautiful highs and magical moments. My yoga practice varies from day to day.
Yoga has been around for more than 5,000 years, but ancient yoga looked quite a bit different from what most people consider yoga today. Yoga’s goal throughout the years has been to answer life’s tough questions – Who am I? What is my purpose? How do I connect to something greater? - and it’s evolved greatly through time and location as our lifestyles have evolved. I find it totally normal and expected that we practice yoga in a very different way than our yogi ancestors did. Because most of us lead relatively sedentary lifestyles (working on computers, driving to get where we need to go), it makes sense that we are drawn to the physical aspect of yoga, the postures or asanas. But as most of us discover when we start to delve a bit deeper, yoga is much more than just poses.
One of my favorite sessions of teacher training (each time I discover something new for my own life and practice), is our discussion of The Eight Limbs of Yoga. Patanjali, the “father of yoga” and one of the leading sages associated with yoga, defined these guidelines for living in the Yoga Sutras as follows:Yama. Yama is often explained as restraint or control, and there are 5 Yamas that can be characterized as ways of controlling yourself or behaving in relation to the outside world. They are: Ahimsa = non-violence; Satya = truthfulness; Asteya = non-stealing; Bramacharya = self control over physical impulses of excess; and Aparigraha = non-hoarding.
I’m adding a series of classes to my YouTube channel that explores each of these limbs, or layers of yoga, in detail through a guided practice. Follow along each week, leave comments and thoughts, and find your own connections and examples in your life. This week we dig into the Yamas!
Helen's Adventures as a Traveling Yogi
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