This is the third blog in a series on Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga. Last time we looked at the Yamas, the five ways to behave in order to live in harmony with your surroundings. Now it is time to dive into and get an idea of how to apply the second limb, the Niyamas. Another five ideals which can be translated as personal ethics. These are:
So, let’s see how our fictional character Ben applies these personal ethics in his daily life.
Ben enjoys being clean and pure (Shaucha). He keeps his body clean by regularly washing it inside and out. He keeps his environment clean by trying to reduce the amount of waste he is creating and regularly cleaning up his direct surroundings, even if it is a waste not created by him. Similarly, he gets sufficient rest and practices yoga on a daily basis to keep his mind clean. He notices that when he is cleaning his body, mind and environment, his awareness of them increases and therefore lives more and more in harmony with them.
Ben seeks contentment regardless of the circumstances (Santosha) he gets in. He knows that being happy is always his choice, even during difficult times. He accepts situations and people the way they are.
Ben regularly goes to the gym for a workout for an hour, after which he goes home to study. Both of these activities are not necessarily enjoyable, but he knows that enduring them will make him a stronger person. He willingly goes through these difficult situations to get the best out of himself (Tapas).
Ben has this urge to understand himself better and therefore studies the Self (Svādhyāya). He not only reads literature about the different layers of his existence, but also strives to observe and experience them as well.
Ben is aware that he is just a very small part of this entire universe that exists of billions of stars and that has been and will be there for billions of years. Whenever he is going through difficult times and feels helpless, he asks the Divine/ Universe/ Nature to take away his sufferings. And during good times, he’s also thankful for the opportunity given to him by the Divine. He surrenders himself to the power beyond his individuality (Ishvara Pranidhāna).
You may have noticed that the Yamas are more focused on the outside world (other people and the environment), while the Niyamas are more focused towards the Self. Maharishi Patanjali quite impressively made this list of only 10 ‘rules’ out of all the ideals that exist in the world and also such that they are still very relevant now after over 2000 years in very different places and circumstances.
Next time we will continue this journey on Ashtanga Yoga with Ben doing Āsanas. So, keep following the blogs and feel free to experience and get to know more about Yoga at our centre.