The other three observances of Niyama, the second limb of yoga, are: Tapas, Ishvara Pranidanam, and Svadhyaya. Tapas means heat, or hot energy, but it is usually described as austerity or simplicity. The idea is that through austerity and life simplifying actions we can burn away the desires and cravings of the ego to free our souls for the spiritual path. Observing Tapas requires practicing self-control, but we don’t necessarily have to become wandering mendicants. Most of us, however, can cut back on excesses in our lives, whether it’s sweets and junk food, too much television, or taking a 20 minute shower. Taking even small steps to simplify our lives and be less wasteful will not only help clear the way for more soul development, but it will also improve our health and help the environment.
Ishvara Pranidanam means devotion or surrender to God, or the Divine. This concept is very similar to Bhakti Yoga – utilizing the study of shastras, other sacred texts, scripture, sutras, and mantra to surrender the ego and strive for oneness with God, the Divine, All.
Svadhyaya is self-study, both studying the sacred texts and prayer on one’s own, and studying one’s self. It’s goal is awareness and understanding of the body, the mind, and emotions. Svadhyaya is learning about the needs and proper care of the body as a vehicle for the soul, as well as studying why thoughts and emotions arise and how we can observe those thoughts and emotions without becoming attached to them so we can free our souls to just be.