Learning the 5 Yogic Niyamas (with Journal Prompt Questions)
To deepen your yoga practice outside of asana (the yogic postures), learn about and integrate the 5 Niyamas, or yogic observances. Apply the Niyamas by answering the journal prompts for each Niyama.
About the Niyamas
The Niyamas are yogic observances or virtuous habits and are the 2nd of the 8 limbs of yoga. There are 5 Niyamas that we’ll cover here:
The 5 Niyamas
What is Saucha?
Saucha: Purity or cleanliness both on and off the mat.
This can mean cleaning your yoga mat, keeping your space tidy, or eating healthy.
It can also be interpreted as managing your mindset and being cognizant of negative or unhealthy thoughts and habits that no longer serve you.
I've heard Saucha described lovingly as clean hands, pure heart.
(I love that.)
Journal Questions to ask yourself about Saucha:
Is your inner dialogue mostly negative? Mostly positive? Are your daily thoughts self-critical? If so, what empowering thought might you replace a negative thought with?
What are 3 ways you can elevate yourself, your mat, or your yoga area before your next practice?
What is Santosha?
Santosha: Finding contentment in your life as it is, at this moment.
This can look like meditation, practicing non-judgment (to others and also ourselves), spending time in nature, giving meaning to moments to make them magical, sharing a long hug with a dear friend - these are all ways to practice santosha.
Journal Questions to ask yourself about Santosha:
What do you feel you need to change in order to feel more happiness? Why do you think that is? What would that change bring you?
An excellent way to practice santosha is cultivating gratitude for what you have. Name 5 things you're grateful for, consider the last thing/person that made you smile, and something small that made your life easier today.
What is tapas?
Tapas: Discipline, burning enthusiasm, or courage for growth
Tapas is derived from Sanskrit with the root verb ‘tap’ meaning ‘to burn’. You can think of this as your passion, your devotion, something that your inner fire drives you towards.
This translates to showing up daily for yourself, your yoga practice, your mental health, and so on.
It's the devotion that gets us back into a warrior III if we lose balance.
It's the devotion of having a set back on our journey yet trying again.
It's the devotion to go to bed earlier if you need more sleep.
It’s the devotion of apologizing to a loved one because you cherish the relationship.
It's the devotion to not drink too much if it doesn't make you feel good the next day.
Tapas is a powerful Niyama that is applicable to every area of your life.
Journal Questions to ask yourself about Tapas:
Where in your life are you disciplined right now? Where in your life could you use more discipline? How would being more disciplined in these areas affect your life?
When was a time in your life where devotion or discipline got you through a hard time?
What is Svadhyaya?
Svādhyāya: Self-study or self-reflection
This concept truly deepens your practice off the mat. This is acknowledging how our ego, or self, appears in our daily life versus our higher Self - who we really know we are
Journal Questions to ask yourself about Svadhyaya:
What phase of your life is coming to an end now?
What new phase of your life is being born?
How could you practice being more present on the mat? Would it look like to command yourself to be present on the mat? Would that be a powerful, demanding practice, a slow, mindful practice, a still seated meditation?
What is Ishvara Pranidhana?
Ishvara Pranidhana: There are multiple ways to interpret this Niyama and there's a reason why it's the last Niyama. In most translations it advises us to surrender to our higher Self or higher being.
In spirit, it means trusting what unfolds and being devoted to a purpose larger than us.
Journal Questions to ask yourself about Ishvara Pranidhana:
What could you let go or devote yourself to more in order to find more peace?
Where could you surrender in your yoga practice? (i.e. stillness in meditation, relaxing pigeon pose, taking an easier variation)
I hope these prompts are thought provoking.