Yoga ethics - niyamas - observances

The Eight Limbs of Yoga start with the Yamas (ethical restraints) and the Niyamas (ethical observances). I consider the Niyamas to be how we relate to our Selves - with a capital S! The first of the five Niyamas is Saucha, or cleanliness. Saucha reminds us to treat our body as a temple, and honour our divinity with good hygiene. Staying healthy and clean in body and mind will improve our quality of life both on and off the yoga mat. In these times of flu fears, it's important to remember to keep our nasal passages functioning optimally. Many yoga practitioners use a neti pot daily to keep our sinus passages clear. This helps our nose to flush out any airborne viruses. A neti pot is a wonderful addition to your daily self-honouring ritual, and may be a vital preventative to maintaining good health this winter. Check out or ask me for more neti pot info. They are available at most drug stores and Jean Coutu.

The second Niyama in Patanjali's yoga system is a beautiful observance of Santosha - or contentment. Mmmmm, what reminds you of contentment in your life? Being in the present moment of the abundance of your life right here, right now, brings a state of easy satisfaction, contentment with all that is. Yoga reminds us that all we want to be is fully present inside us, if we are willing to uncover it from the trappings of greed, envy. On the mat, it is a subtle reminder that we can enjoy movement in our bodies now, whatever condition/weight/energy level we have. If we can breathe, we can be content! Off the mat, santosha reminds us to be content with all that we are/have, without the 'ifs, ands, or buts'. Our lifestyle creates wants and desires, and ignores what it is that we truly need. The wants are what disconnects us from the abundance of the present, but what we need (food, shelter, love), we already have. Satisfying our true needs, not our elusive and everchanging wants, is what gives us a simple, happy life. We have so much to be grateful for. Santosha. mmmmm.

The third niyama is the observance of Tapas. Tapas relates to the inner effort and discipline you bring to your yoga practice. Often I've observed people going through the motions of a yoga class, like playing Simon Says, without investing the effort into their own healing and self-improvement, and then returning to their old patterns as soon as class is finished! Tapas reminds us to ''BRING IT...' settling into a focused and intense practice, at the same time observing ahimsa, non-harm, and satya, your truth. Tapas focuses our yoga practice through our discipline and inner effort, and challenges us to apply the lessons of yoga to our life off the mat. Bring it!!!

The fourth niyama is the observance of svadyaya, or the study of spiritual texts, or can even be interpreted as self-study. As a system of living well, the yoga ashtang system is a course in self-study, as you relate to your inner and outer world. Taking time to learn from other 'bright lights' or teachers on a spiritual path can really illuminate your own. There is so much information in the world around us, and if we take in that info, it becomes knowledge to us. For many of us, it doesn't reach any further than that - acquiring information and knowledge to amuse ourselves with details and 'shoulds' for others. BUT: when we apply svadyaya, the knowledge gained from study becomes true wisdom when we apply it to our daily life. I use the example of drinking water - we all know we need to drink far more water than we do (consider your weight in pounds, then double that number and drink that much in millilitres of water). So with that information, and absorbing that knowledge, how many of us move past the 'I should drink more water..." to actually doing so, to improve our quality of life? When we apply svadyaya, we become wise inside, and our life is an expression of our choice of health and well being.

The last of five niyamas is the observance of Ishwara Pranidan. Wowza! Sanskrit is so poetic! Ishwara pranidan is the surrender to a higher power, or the observance of wonder and awe. What makes you step back in wonder and delight at the great mystery of life? Nature? children? Ishwara pranidan encourages us to participate in the act of 'beholding' - wondering at the Mystery and beauty of it all, whatever you describe the Divine to be - God, Allah, Buddha, Goddess, Self. When you give up the illusion of control and step back in delight at the power that moves through you, others, the earth, the Universe, and all of life - that is the true power of beholding. Without changing anything, observing the perfection of imperfection, and giving yourself over to a Higher power that guides us all. Namaste -


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