Yogic Discipline: An Overview of Niyama


While yama help yogis manage affairs when interacting with other people, the niyamas (“ni-” means internal) are principles or disciplines to obey when dealing with one’s self.

Contemporary yoga in the West maintains a strong focus on yogic instruction from the orientation of the physical postures – or asana, which we will cover in the next section. While asana have a great utility for the purpose of stabilizing the body and mind, it is first of primary importance that the practitioner observe essential yogic discipline that forms the true base of a sincere yoga practice.

Here in this section, we will cover the second and third limbs of yoga: the yamas and the niyamas. Yamas are external restraints that the yogi should follow to create the type of life that does not interfere with one’s practice. The niyamas are the internal disciplines that must be followed to establish the mind state where deeper meditative progress is possible.

Video Commentary: Discipline (Niyama)

Video Transcript


The five niyamas – the internal disciplines.

The second limb of yoga practice is niyama. Niyama means internal discipline. This helps the practitioner to clarify his or her internal world and to understand personality.

There are five niyamas:

  1. Saucha (purity) – this means keeping your thoughts, speech, and body balanced and pure.
  2. Santosha (contentment) – this means being happy and grateful as you are without feeling the need or desire to change things from how they are in the present moment.
  3. Tapas (purification) – this means self-realization, which can be achieved through the determination and heat of effort created in your practice.
  4. Svadhaya (study) – this includes reading, reflection, and meditation.
  5. Ishvara-pranidana (surrender) – this means being devoted to Divinity rather than your personal desires.

So these are the five external restraints – or yamas – and the five internal disciplines – or niyamas.

Together they form the base of the eight limbs of yoga practice.

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