Defining the Five Niyamas and Putting Them Into Practice

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The Sanskrit term, niyama is what we would recognize as positive duties and observances, often practiced alongside the yamas, which we discussed last month in Defining the Five Yamas and Putting Them Into Practice. Again, we will focus on Patanjali’s teachings, which are: Saucha, Santosha, Tapas, Svhadhyaya, and Isvara Pranidhana.

Whereas the yamas encourage us to strive for peace with the world, the niyamas are ways we can find peace with the self; observe thyself and seek restraint with the world. These are by no means simple to live by, but when we do observe yama/niyama our life will be full, our body healthy, and our spirit will be enlightened.

Saucha (purity)

Another word commonly used to describe saucha is cleanliness. Practicing saucha means you are striving to be clean inside and out – what goes into our body is clean and what comes out is clean. What goes in could be good, clean food and what comes out could be clean language and pure intentions.

Santosha (contentment)

These days the word content is often seen as settling, or not being totally satisfied. We see it as simply accepting the situation, and while a big part of santosha is acceptance (of what you have, and of others), to be content is actually to be satisfied. When we view contentment as a bad thing, we’re insinuating that we need abundance, and in some cases over-abundance, to feel pleased. This niyama asks us to be more down to earth, be happy with what we have, and take only what we need.

Tapas (austerity)

The literal translation of the sanskrit, tapas, is “to heat”. When we practice tapas we are practicing discipline and austerity on an extreme level to liberate and renew. Some cultures practice tapas as if it were penance, believing they must suffer (often by mortification) to be cleansed of bad karma. This may bring a more literal understanding to “heat” as burning cleanses all and forces transformation.  An example of this that we encounter more often in our culture would be fasting or cleansing.

Svhadhyaya (self-study)

Many use meditation as their svhadhyaya practice, and while this is great for finding your center, we must also observe our behaviors in a number of situations, inevitably over a period of time. How we act and react to situations and to others will help us to understand where we struggle or prevail, but also how to make decisions that best fit our true disposition.

Isvara Pranidhana (dedication to the Lord)

One way of describing Isvara Pranidhana is committing yourself to that which is unaffected, because whatever that is for you is the catalyst that encourages action and/or change. For some this is God or a deity of sorts, for others it’s considered a higher form of consciousness.

Just as I said last time, none of this is easy. We are all lead so often by our senses and emotions, it’s hard to be aware of what’s in our best interest at all times. The truth is, unless we completely isolate ourselves and are void of any interaction, we will always have missteps keeping things interesting. The best we can do is have good intentions and learn from our experiences.

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Magick Card of the Month: Boat Pose

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Boat Pose is a great way to fire up the abs and activate the sacral chakra. Like its water element, this pose can bring up deep emotions. It is also great for detoxing.

Anatomy of the Pose: Come to Dandasana, or Staff Pose. Lift the feet off the floor, bringing the knees towards the chest, and rock back so you’re balancing on the sits bones. Place hands under the knees to help find balance. Stay here, or take the hands out from under the knees, arms are still straight with palms up. As if you had an oar in each hand, begin motioning as though you’re rowing a boat. Straighten legs on the forward motion and bend the knees as you row back. Do this while singing:

Row, row, row your boat

Gently down the stream

If you see a crocodile

Don’t forget to scream

Ahhh!

Chakras Most Affected: Svadhistana, our second chakra, located in the sacrum is activated and balanced in this pose. The energy here brings light to our relationships and aids in emotional cleansing.

Benefits for Children: Not only is this pose fun and they get to sing a silly song, but this pose can help children to positively deal with emotions that feel overwhelming. It also gives us a new perspective on balance, as this is not a common position we find ourselves in.

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Magick Card of the Month: Snake Pose

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Snake Pose, similar to cobra, is a whimsical pose that encourages relaxation and day dreaming. Its element is Earth, which helps to keep us grounded.

Anatomy of the Pose: Come to the belly, on your forearms. Let the third eye rest on the floor. Inhale to lift the head and chest, exhale to come back down. For fun: do a snake hiss when the head comes up.

Chakras Most Affected: Snake pose is wonderful for Anahata, the heart chakra. It opens the chest and helps to stretch the lungs and abdomen.

Benefits for Children: Snake is a fun pose for kids. It sparks the imagination and lets them role play. It also allows them to open the chest, which we don’t often get to do naturally.

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