Five point yoga: Ways to discipline yourself

Niyama is an important aspect of Ashtanga yoga and has to do with how one regulates the self. Sage Patanjali has laid down five niyamas that are observances for the ‘self’

Woman meditating in her house

Yoga is about bringing an equilibrium between the body, mind and soul. Niyamas are stepping stones that can help you make the connect. Here are the five niyamas of Yoga as postulated by Patanjali.

Sauch: Cleanliness

Health begins with hygiene. This applies not just to physical health, but also to mental and emotional wellbeing.

Just as you bathe to rid your body of impurities and exfoliate your skin to remove the dead cells, likewise it's important to exfoliate unwanted thoughts and emotions from your mind and consciousness.

Thoughts of the past that cause pain and unrest serve no purpose and should be swept out.

We indulge in a beauty or spa treatment to relieve stress and pamper our body. To rejuvenate the mind we must invest in good books, seek inspiration from spiritual masters and keep company of good people.

To begin with: Organise your desk/wardrobe. Declutter your environment to declutter your mind.

Santosh: Contentment

Sage Patanjali says that the key to happiness is contentment. It means being happy where you are and with what you have. Being content begins with being in the moment, cherishing the present and not worrying about the future.

To explain this in the context of your yogic practice, if you aren't able to do an asana as well as others, don't fret.

Accept that each of us is unique and enjoy your body the way it is instead of getting frustrated. Frustration only brings resistance in your practice and make your body and mind rigid. Feel happy and appreciate what you have.

To begin with: Think of all things that you have and are grateful for; you'll surprise yourself with how many good things there are in your life.

Tapa: Perseverance

Tapa is like a fire that purifies. Tapa is when you set a goal and decide to achieve it with focused hard work and discipline.

Achieving an objective requires dedication and sometimes even sacrifices. Let's say, you aim to lose weight.

That will happen only if you stay committed to your exercise regime and curb your calorie consumption. It's easier said than done, but if you persevere, it will happen. Tapa implies that every action must be done to the best of our abilities.

To begin with: Think of a small goal [like waking up 15 minutes early] that you have been meaning to achieve but have been putting off and set to work on it. Don't give up till you've achieved it!

Swadhyaya: Self-study

Swadhyaya is a beautiful tool that teaches us self-discovery. It calls for being observant of your body and mind. Training your mind to focus on the self begins on the mat itself.

While doing any asana, pay complete attention to your body. Observe the signs it gives you—is there pain or discomfort? Notice if both sides of the body are symmetrical and equally flexible.

To practise this niyama in personal life, be mindful of what you say. Are the words you use wise, comforting and gentle? Are they necessary, do they serve a purpose or is it better to be silent? Be observant of your reactions to people and situations.

To begin with: At the end of the day make a note of one positive thing and one negative thing you noticed about yourself.

Ishwar Pranidhan: Surrender to God

Ishwar signifies a supreme force—the creator, the universe, the force that is within you. Sage Patanjali suggests surrendering all aspects of your life as an offering to God. When you give it all to God, your actions cannot be anything but pure and good.

To begin with: Each time you begin your yoga practice, spend a few moments in silence and think of someone you may want to dedicate your yoga session to. You could alternately do this at the start of your day as well.


This article originally appeared in the July 2011 issue of Complete Wellbeing

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