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Understanding The Niyamas in Yoga & Ayurveda Philosopy


As mentioned in the last article both Yamas and Niyamas are very beneficial in cultivating “Sattva” – a state of balance, harmony and equanimity.

Cultivating Niyamas allows you to cultivate discipline and responsibility.

The Niyamas are ultimately designed to help purify your body, mind and emotions. They are a great tool used for healing in Ayurveda.

Here are my interpretation of the 5 Niyamas and how I have come to understand them and apply them in the practice of yoga and Ayurveda.

Saucha: The practice of Saucha means to cultivate cleanliness and purity both outwardly and inwardly.

Purity is also achieved by practicing the five yamas, which help clear away the negative physical, mental and emotional states of being.

Keep yourself, your clothing, and your surroundings clean.

In Ayurveda a good way to practice Saucha is to eat clean, fresh and healthy food and treat your body like a temple.

Santosha: Santosha means cultivating contentment and peace by being happy with what you have and who you are.

Seek happiness in the moment, accept who you are, and choose to grow or evolve from where you are.

The practice of santosha is also a practice of being appreciative for all the gifts and things given to you in your life (health, wealth, abundance and prosperity).

In Ayurveda a good way to practice santosha is to being thankful for the food you have to eat – think of all the staving people this very moment who wish and hope for a bowl of rice.

Saying a short prayer or grace before you eat is a good way to express this.

Tapas: Tapas is the practice of self- discipline – having discipline to fulfill your higher purpose in life.

In Ayurveda a good way to practice tapas is to resist the urge to eat something you know is not good for you.

For example, if you desire a piece of chocolate for dessert, allow yourself to observe that piece of cake without actually eating it.

Tapas cultivate will-power, which is the will of the mind to overcome the senses.

When you have will-power you become strong and your power to overcome any adversity and obtain success greatly increases.

Svadhaya: Svadhaya means to study yourself. It starts with being aware of your actions and motives behind what you do.

It also involves observing your thoughts and contemplating your actions.

In Ayurveda a good way to practice this is by contemplating why you eat certain foods and how they effect you.

Take some time in silence and stillness to meditate on this. This is also known as introspection – having an internal dialogue with yourself about your actions.

Studying sacred spiritual texts are also a way to cultivate svadhaya. These include specific books that are relevant to you, which teach and inspire you.

Educating yourself and learning the deeper meanings of life takes you out of ignorance and changes your outlook and perspective – allowing you to make better, meaningful choices.

Ishavarapranidhana: The practice of ishavarapranidhana means to surrender to a greater force – such as god or some other form of divinity.

It also means to practice appreciation and devotion towards God, Buddha, Jesus, Krishna or whatever you consider divine.

In Ayurveda a good way to practice this is to do you part in maintaining your health & wellness and leave the rest up to God or the Universe.

This requires acceptance and letting the process of life happen with ease and grace.

One of my great spiritual teachers Swami Veda Bharati says that when one is on their spiritual path and serious about their yoga practice they are automatically inclined to practice the Yamas and Niyamas.

Integrating the Yamas and Niyamas in your life becomes more effortless as you understand how to apply them in your thought, words and actions – without struggling and resistance.