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Now that we’ve begun refraining from harmful actions, we need to enhance our lives by ACTION with the Niyamas. Nature abhors a vacuum and will always replace a space. Here, we begin to embrace ACTION based suggestions, that focus on the self. We can integrate these activities into our busy lives easily, as each observance is embraced in a totally different way in each yogi’s life. This is wonderfully personal and leaves a lot of room for interpretation.
The first of the Niyamas is Cleanliness. Shower every day? Nah? Me either. But that’s not really where this is going. Saucha is focused on the cleanliness of the internal body, the external body, and the mind.
Some of the traditional internal cleansings, may not be attractive to us these days. Such as swallowing rags to clean your upper digestive tract or taking water up in your nether regions to clear out your lower digestive tract. I’m not really into that either. But I AM pretty down with healthy eating. Healthy eating runs a pretty broad spectrum and I’m not a nutritionist, so I won’t be getting into nutrition counseling here. However we ALL should be laying off the sugar. All of us. If you’re eating processed food, you’re eating sugar. It’s hidden everywhere. Read your food labels, lay off the cookies (my favorite food) and reduce your sugar intake. The American Heart Association suggests aiming for less than 25g a day. You’ll notice a huge difference in your energy levels and your whole body will thank you.
External Cleanliness focuses on our outside bodies, skin, and hair. This also will mean different things for different cultures. Our American cleanliness is totally different from other parts of the world, and that’s ok. We should be mindful of what products we use on ourselves and family’s bodies. This will definitely be a more in-depth post in the future because I could talk all day about safer products to use such as deodorants, make-ups, and oils. Start by deciding on one or two products that you could substitute for safer options, research and try them out. Don’t have time for research? I’ve done a lot for you already. Stay tuned. 🙂
Keep it clean people…you know what I’m saying… 😉
Exercise: What kind of small change can you make in your diet today, to improve your wellness?
Santosha is a huge tenant of happiness, but a really hard Niyama to master. This is highly linked to non-attachment and one of the biggest secrets to a happy life.
Most likely you have a lot. Family, work, material possessions, friends. Love what you have, and be content with all of your blessings!
Now, what about forward progress, goals and manifesting an abundant life? Absolutely. Yes, Yes, YES!!!! But lose your attachment to the outcome and be happy with the process and the journey. Work towards your goals, but stop to smell the flowers along the way. If we discount the journey, then we spend a lot of time wishing we were somewhere else. Enjoy now. Tomorrow will be here soon enough.
Exercise: Try starting a gratitude journal. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but writing your blessings down can be a very powerful action. Being able to look back on your written amazing life helps to pick you up during difficult times.
Tapas means to burn. This Niyama is to burn away the impurities that we have accumulated in our bodies and our minds. Does that mean hot yoga? Maybe. If it’s a discipline of yours. Yet again, this will be wildly different for every yogi. We all have aspects of our life we need to be disciplined about. Healthy eating, exercising, not swearing, housework, the study of spiritual texts, being more consistent with the kids….what is it for you?
There are a lot of habits that I’m working on right now. I’ve been using the bullet journal system for the past 6 months. And it is perfect for me. I have a page in my Bullet Journal called a Habit Tracker and it is a daily reminder of all the things I’m trying to integrate into my routine. Now, if you’re not a list maker or a person who loves to give herself gold stars, then this might not work. But it does help me.
The most important aspect here is to be mindful that you are non-violent with yourself in your discipline. We have enough pressure coming at us from all sides. All of us need to be more gentle with ourselves. If you’re not doing too hot with a particular discipline right now, is it really the best time to begin that specific change? If not, then focus on something that may be a little easier at this point. Be easy on yourself right now. The consistency of an achievable action is healthier than being inconsistent with an unmanageable activity.
Exercise: What do you need to be more disciplined about? Have you tried a Habit Log?
Study of Scriptures and the Self
Sadhaya suggests a daily study of religious texts and regular study of the self. So many spiritual books to choose from! Where to start? Maybe start with the text of the religion you grew up with. Delve into it a little deeper. Explore the main text of another religion you’ve always been curious about. You don’t have to convert, just reading the book. Pick up the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, since we’re exploring this here. Or the Bhagavad Gita. Start with when is piquing your interest right now.
This doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Just a few minutes during the day to give you something to chew on. I like to do this in the morning, but some people like to study at night, being able to think about it before bed.
Study of the Self. Well, that can kind of be uncomfortable right? To be better people we need to look deeply into ourselves and be honest about the people we are. We can look at the undesirable aspect of ourselves, understand where they came from and remove them from our lives. We can also celebrate positive aspects of our personality, foster these attributes and rise to the next level.
Exercise: 1. What spiritual books are you comfortable with? Would you be able to fit in 5 minutes of study a day?
2. Take 15 minutes with a journal today, and write down 3 undesirable aspects of yourself. Yikes! Scary right? Just to it. After identifying these 3 attributes, spend some time and REALLY explore where they came from. Forgive yourself and make a plan to change these qualities. Next, write down in big, beautiful letters your three top qualities. Take a moment and reflect on where these attributes came from. Be thankful. Circle these top qualities and celebrate them, because Yogi you are amazing!
Resignation to a higher reality
Just as non-violence is the apex of the Yamas, the most important of the Niyamas is Pranidhana. As with most of the Niyamas, resignation to a higher reality is very personal and will mean different things to everyone. Do you have to go to church on a regular basis or subscribe to a certain religion? Not if you don’t want to. But accepting that there is a higher reality than ourselves helps us to embrace the world outside of our own experience. This helps us to realize that we should all focus on serving and advancing humanity. We should be gentle with others and ourselves as we are all part of this manifestation and imperfect journey.
Exercise: Do you have a specific belief in a higher power? Journal about it completely.
The niyamas are my favorite limb of the Ashtanga Yoga path because it is all about action. We need to be mindful not to obsess about these suggestions, and be easy with ourselves. These powerful habits are easy to integrate into our schedules. Try delving into these exercises and see what these changes bring into your life.