Last month, we delved into how to practice Yamas on the mat. Today, we’ll be looking into Niyamas. The Yamas are a social code of conduct, and the Niyamas are a standard of personal ethics an individual strives to follow on the spiritual sojourn of Yoga.
Cleanliness and tidiness in the outer environment and your own personal cleanliness keeps the mind from becoming cluttered and irritable. On the mat, if your mind becomes disturbed, then your body cannot focus on doing asana, and the whole practice becomes disturbed.
Deeper understanding of Shaucha is to understand that your body and mind influence each other both on the mat and off the mat. Taking care of each is important to achieve a steady and comfortable asana. Balance and symmetry can only be achieved if the mind is calm and the body flows with the breath.
Shaucha on the mat means personal and environmental cleanliness, together with calmness of the mind.
Santosha on the mat means your asana practice is happening with a relaxed attitude of the body and mind.
Accepting the body as it is in that moment without complaint, and having a mindful attitude toward the practice of asana. When the mind and body are both relaxed, then every movement is joyful and becomes an expression of happiness.
Santosha on the mat is a tension-free body and a joyful mind, both flowing in harmony with the breath.
Tapas means willingly accepting adverse conditions without complaining, and this extends to your asana practice on the mat being met with a sincere attitude. Having patience and willingness to give the practice your sincere effort. This type of practice will develop endurance and stamina on the mat and build capacity for endurance off the mat.
Tapas on the mat is accepting the challenge of practice with a sincere attitude.
Self-study on the mat means observing one’s attitude, balance, symmetry, and sincerity, and from these observations, learning to improve your own practice at your own pace.
Swadhyaya on the mat means learning from Self-reflection.
Ishwar pranidhana (surrendering to a higher power)
Ishwar pranidhana is invited to your practice by 100% just letting go of any anxiety on the mat. Once your sincere effort has been given to achieving symmetry and balance on the mat, let the mind and body totally relax.
This attitude drops any feverishness. It allows you to transcend the body into stillness and the mind into a deep silence. This allows the divinity within to prevail.
Or as Patanjali explains, “Prayatna Shaithalya vAnant Samapatti bhyam!”
Ishwar Pranidhana on the mat is letting the divinity within be your guide into the practice and allowing the divinity to prevail: It is the journey and the destination!
In fact, one needs to follow only one of the Yamas or Niyamas and all other Yamas and Niyamas will start to manifest. Not just on the mat, but also in life. Each Yama or Niyama holds a secret to leading one to the truth, and like all rivers merge in the ocean, each of the Yamas and Niyamas bring one to the depth of True Consciousness.
Asatoma sat gamay…