World Welfare Mission

Email Twitter Facebook
Add to Favorites  |  Tell a Friend  |  Blog

Home / Yoga / Niyama (Observances or Disciplines or Devotion)

Ashtanga Yoga, The Eight-Limbs of Yoga:
(Observances or Disciplines or Devotion)

‘Niyama’, a Sanskrit, word mean rules or laws. These are the rules prescribed for personal observance. Like the five yamas, the niyamas are not exercises or actions to be simply studied. They represent far more than an attitude. Compared with the yamas, the niyamas are more intimate and personal. They refer to the attitude we adopt toward ourselves.


The first niyama is shaucha, cleanliness. Shaucha has both an inner and an outer aspect. Outer cleanliness simply means keeping ourselves clean. Inner cleanliness has as much to do with the healthy, free functioning of our bodily organs as with the clarity of our mind. Practicing asanas or pranayama are essential means for attending to this inner shaucha.


Another niyama is santosha, modesty and the feeling of being content with what we have. To be at peace within and content with one's lifestyle. Literally the word means happiness. There are occasions we work hard to get something. We get very disappointed when we don't get it. Some people will get into extreme depression as a result. Some people may even contemplate suicide in extreme cases. We do these things because we do not have the discipline of being content with what we have. We should accept that there is a purpose for everything - yoga calls it karma. In 'Celestine Prophecy', James Redfield calls this synchronicity. The real meaning of santosha is 'to accept what happens'. God has a plan. Christians prays, 'Thy will be done.' Accept what God has given us with humility and happiness. Be happy with what we have rather than being unhappy about what we don't have.

A commentary on the Yoga Sutra says: "Contentment counts for more than all sixteen heavens together." Instead of complaining about things that go wrong, we can accept what has happened and learn from them. Santosha encompasses our mental activities such as study, our physical efforts, and even how we earn our living. It is about ourselves-what we have and how we feel about what God has given us. It is about our whole outlook on life. Do we look at a cup as half empty or as half full?


‘Tapo dwandsahanam’- Maharishi Vyasa. Means-To abide perplexity. To achieve a great goal of life, constantly, unflaggingly run towards holy/divine goal, accept; abide perplexity / difficulties / hardships / troubles in the way. These perplexities are:-hunger & thrust, winter & summer, heat & cold, well & woes, pleasure & pain, profit & loss, regards & insult, praise & criticism, honour & dishonour, victory & defeat etc. one should be able to bear all the situation , being patient in all duel situation is Tapas. (Not just standing by single leg on fire or ice.)


The fourth niyama is swadhyaya. Swa means "self' or "belonging to me." Adhyaya means "inquiry" or "study". The word swadhyaya literally means, "To get close to something." It means to get close to yourself, that is, to study yourself. It could also mean meditation or contemplation. It teaches us to be centered and non-reactive to the dualities, to burn out unwanted and destructive tendencies.

All learning, all reflection, all contact that helps you to learn more about yourself is swadhyaya. In the context of the niyama the term is often translated as "the study of ancient texts." Yes, yoga does instruct us to read the ancient texts because we cannot always just sit down and contemplate things. We need reference points. The world is changing fast around us. We can read the books on spiritual healing or one that is of personal significance or the Yoga Sutra. According to the Yoga Sutra, as we progress in our self-examination, we will gradually find a link with the divine laws and with the prophets who revealed them. And since mantras are often recited for this purpose, we sometimes find swadhyaya translated as "the repetition of mantras."


Ishwar-pranidhana means "to lay all your actions at the feet of God." It is the contemplation on God (Ishwara) in order to become attuned to god and god's will. We should accept the fact that we will not always get everything we want. Sometimes we get disappointed. Things do go wrong. This is the reason why santosha (modesty) is so important. We have done our share. We have done the best we could under the circumstances. We can leave the rest to a higher power. In the context of the niyamas we can define Ishwar-pranidhana as the attitude of a person who usually offers the fruits of his or her action to God in daily prayer.