How will you practice self care?
In the third part of this series, I explained the five Yamas here. They are guidelines for how to interact with and treat other people. If you’re still struggling with a goal for 2021, and you want to pick one, picking one thing to work on from the Yamas is a great place to start.
Now it’s time to focus on you. That’s where the Niyamas come in: they are five personal practices that can help lead you towards a more joyful life.
Saucha is often described as cleanliness or purity. Cleanliness of your physical body, your space — even your mind.
A goal of Saucha might look like:
- Decluttering your home
- Decluttering where you practice Yoga
- Cleansing your body by bringing attention to your breathing
- Being mindful while physically cleaning, both your body & your home
- Cleansing your heart by practicing gratitude
Click here for a Yin Yoga practice centered around the idea of Saucha. You’ll be strengthening your upper body and hips.
Santosha is a Sanskrit word that means contentment. Who wouldn’t want contentment as a goal? Especially when we are going through trying times.
When you are truly content, you feel at peace. Balanced. Grounded. You aren’t envious of what others have, because you are content with what you have. In fact, you realize that it doesn’t matter what you have — all that matters is you value it.
That is true contentment
Santosha also means being content with what you can do. Not what the person next to you in class is doing. Being content without necessarily going into the deepest expression of a Yoga pose if that’s not right for your body.
Santosha is also about being grateful for what you have — it’s hard to be discontent when you’re grateful.
Tapas is often defined as generating some heat or discipline. That might be:
- Rubbing your hands together (literally generating some heat)
- Practicing Yoga asana that heats your body (backbends, for one)
- Practicing Yoga asana that are challenging to you
- Challenging yourself to try things that are hard for you — on & off the mat
- Doing the work (in any walk of life) — even if it feels hard to you
Svadhyaya is generally translated as self study. You might consider this in three ways:
- “To Thy own self be true”, to quote Shakespeare. Know yourself. Know your core values — and stick to them. I have not gotten together with friends in a group during the Pandemic, although I have met up with friends one on one. I have people in my life who are at higher risk. My friends who meet up outside are fine — I know unequivocally that I have done the right thing for me. I can look back at this time and know that I have stayed true to my convictions.
- The second meaning is to know that you are an experiment of one. What works for you in your poses? What feels right in your body? In your heart? Don’t just follow blindly, really get in touch with what feels right to you.
- Finally Svadhyaya can also mean to recognize yourself in everything. In every plant, in every animal, in every person. There is a divine spark in all of us. We are all connected.
Iswara Pranidhana may be viewed as:
- Trusting that a higher intelligence (God, source, a supreme being) has a plan for you
- Surrendering to your divine plan
- Being open to the opportunities in everyday life — both the challenges and the gifts
Which Niyama do you feel called to work on?
Although the Yamas appear before the Niyamas, I would argue that the Niyamas are actually more important. When you practice self care, it begins to trickle out into every area of your life (remember that butterfly effect I wrote about here?). Everything starts with self love.
Pick a Yama, or a Niyama, or one of both and work on them in 2021. Then watch how your life changes for the better!
- The Yamas and Niyamas (Amazon Affiliate link here)
- The Secret Power of Yoga (Amazon Affiliate link here)
- Do Your Om Thing (Amazon Affiliate link here)
Disclaimer: if you buy one of these books by using my links, I will make a very small commission.