With the first limb of yoga, or Yama, I discussed the abstinence practices for actions from which we should constrain ourselves: Ahimsa and Asteya, Satya, and Brahmacharya and Aparigraha. Now let’s take a look at the second limb of yoga, Niyama. The Niyamas are observances, prescribed acts that we should follow when aspiring for the spiritual path of the yogi or yogini. As with the Yamas, there are five Niyamas.
The first of these observances is Saucha. Saucha means cleanliness or purity. Often in yoga studio bathrooms there is a sign posted reminding us to observe Saucha by washing our hands, etc. Many of us have also seen pictures or heard of Hindus and Yogis bathing themselves in the Ganges for spiritual purposes. Yes, Saucha is about personal hygiene, but its full meaning is to live a life of cleanliness and purity both internally and externally. Externally we clean our bodies, homes, and environment. Internally we purify our bodies by hydrating well, eating healthy nourishing foods, and avoiding toxins. Most importantly, we observe Saucha internally by having good and pure intentions in all that we do and by acting out of love and compassion.
The second observance is Santosha. Santosha means contentment. It is being at peace with what is, with what you have, and with the present moment, the now. However, this doesn’t mean that you should not take action, make change, and live your life. It does mean trying to not let the mind dwell on or worry about things that have past or that we cannot do anything about. Being content requires acceptance of the way things are, and not letting the desires and cravings of the ego to want more and more cause us suffering and dissatisfaction.