The stages or eight limbs of Yoga – Niyama

Niyamas are the rules of conduct that hold good for individual discipline, whereas Yama are universal in their application. The five Niyamas as stated by Patanjali are:

  • Purity (Shaucha) 

Purity of body, mind and spirit is essential for one’s well being. While purity of the body can be achieved by bathing regularly, internal purification can be obtained only by practising Asanas and Pranayama regularly. Apart from removing the impurities and toxins that have accumulated in body over a period of time due to overindulgence, Asanas help in toning up muscles.

Likewise, Pranayama serves several purposes, helping in aerating and cleansing the lungs, purifying the blood and strengthen the nerves. Purifying the mind too is of utmost importance. This includes elimination of the emotions like passion, anger, lust, greed, hatred and pride. This can be achieved by means of Bhakti (Devotion to God). This purity is not just limited to body, mind or actions but it also includes purity of the food we eat and the place we live in.

Such purification brings ecstasy. It changes the outlook of the subject towards others, towards himself and towards life. The mind in such a state of clarity finds it easier to focus towards its goal.

  • Contentment (Santosha) 

Mind can only concentrate when it is contented.Contentment has to be developed. When a person is greedy for something or other, his mind cannot concentrate. Therefore, it becomes necessary to be happy in whatever condition one  is living in and whatever wealth one has (or does not have). Cast, creed and wealth are the fundamental factors that breed dissatisfaction among people and lead to conscious or unconscious conflicts. In such conditions, it becomes impossible for the mind to concentrate or become single-minded (Ekagra). As a result, it is robbed of its peace, in the absence of which, it becomes impossible to achieve success, of whatever kind.

  • Austerity (Tapas) 

The word Tapas is derived from the root “Tap” meaning to burn, shine or suffer. Glorifying purification, self discipline and austerity, it implies burning endeavor under all circumstances to reach goals of life. It also requires one to burn up all desires (that are seen as stumbling blocks) and to make conscious and continuous effort to reach the ultimate state of Self and God realization. Tapas is of three types

    • Related to the body (Kayik).
    • Related to the speech (Vachik)
    • Related to the mind (Manasik).

Tapas of body includes Brahmacharya (continence) and ahimsa (non-violence). Tapas of speech includes usage of non-offensive words, enumerating and singing the glory of Almighty God and always speaking the truth without thinking of its consequences. To keep the mind tranquil and balanced in both joy and sorrow and exercising self control in all circumstances are the Tapas of mind. To work without selfish motive or hope of reward is thefundamental principle of tapas. 

Tapas provides strength to the body, mind and character. The virtues of courage, wisdom , integrity, straightforwardness and simplicity are enhanced in the subject.

  • Self-study (Swadhyaya) 

The word “Swadhyaya” is derived from the combination of two words ” Swa” and ” Adhyaya” . “Swa” means self  and “Adhyaya” implies ” study “.

Education is a process that brings out the best; which is within ourselves. Thus the educating the self is Swadhyaya. In the practice of Swadhyaya the person concerned is the speaker as well as the listener. It is not a practice of class room lecture where the lecturer speaks before the audience or students who follow the instructions.

In Swadhyaya people speak and listen to themselves. Their mind and heart are full of love and respect, and the noble thoughts arising from this practice are taken into blood stream to make them a part of life and being. Swadhyaya changes the outlook of life. The person starts believing that all creations are divine and life is meant for adoration and not for enjoyment only.

Their minds and hearts are full of love and respect that helps them to lead a noble existence.

Dedication to the Lord  (Ishwara pranidhan)  Dedicating oneself completely (will, wish and actions) to the God is Ishwara pranidhan. He who has faith in God, who knows that all creations belong to the God, will not face any dilemma, will not be puffed up with pride or drunk with power and will bow his head only in worship. As is their nature, our senses seek gratification and any hindrance in the same brings sorrow and dissatisfaction. This however, may be overcome with the help of knowledge and forbearance. But to control the mind is a difficult task. This surely needs a lending hand from God. One must have complete faith in God and keep working with full honesty and dedication. Bhakti commences at this stage.  In Bhakti the mind, intellect, will and wish are surrendered humbly to God with the prayer that ‘I’ am nothing and that the Almighty will take care of me. There is no feeling of ‘I’ and ‘ mine’ in Bhakti. Bhakti leads to the the disappearance of “I” and “Mine” and when this happens it indicates full growth of the individual’s soul.