Niyama: Cultivate Better Relationship with Yourself and Commit Self-Care


his article excerpt covers Yoga Sutra 2.32 and centers around the Sanksrit word: Niyama.  Again, what you read below is an introduction to the Yoga Sutras and  a part of our broader series covering the Yoga Sutras for Beginners, which is 15 article excerpts in total. 

Each of the article excerpts within this series will give you a sneak peek into the wonderful work created by Yogi and author, Melissa Lavery, whose complete book, The Yogic Lifestyle: A Foundation for Freedom is available at select distributors throughout the US as well as Amazon’s online bookstore.

All content excerpts are provided with permission by the publisher.

The book itself is organized into 3 parts and further divided into each of the 15 categories below:

The Yogic Lifestyle: A Foundation for Relationships

  1. Shanti: How to Maintain Personal Peace and Power in Relationships
  2. Yama: How to Eliminate Suffering and Cultivate a Better Relationship with the World
  3. Niyama: How to Cultivate a Better Relationship with Yourself and Commit to Personal Self-Care
  4. Pratipaksa Bhavana: How to Navigate Conflicting World-views and Build Relationships with Anyone
  5. Samadhi: How the Inner Journey Toward Self Will Bring You Closer to the Divine Consciousness

The Yogic Lifestyle: A Foundation for Health

  1. Asana: The Health Benefits of a Physical Practice (On and Off the Mat)
  2. Pranayama: How to Maintain Health Through Breath Awareness
  3. Samyama: How to Travel the Meditative Path to Health and Wellness
  4. Nidra: How to Improve Your Sleep Quality to Enhance Health and Wellness
  5. Sauca: How Cleanliness Paves the Path to Holistic Health

The Yogic Lifestyle: A Foundation for Abundance

  1. Klesa: How to Eliminate Ego’s Control and Cultivate an Identity that Attracts Abundance
  2. Satya: How Authenticity Leads to Attracting Abundance
  3. Astreya: How to Practice Non-Stealing to Attract Wealth and Abundance
  4. Aparigraha: How the Practice of Non-Hoarding Can Benefit Your Wallet and Illumniate Your Path
  5. Sadhana: How Consistent Practice Creates a Strong Foundation for an Abundant Life

The Yogic Lifestyle: A Foundation for Freedom

Niyama: How to Cultivate a Better Relationship with Yourself and Commit to Personal Self-Care

Niyama consists of purity, contentment, accepting but not causing pain, study of spiritual books, and worship of God [self-surrender].

The measure of happiness is contentment and circumventing that which makes us suffer. Most people seek outside of themselves for happiness. They count their blessings in monetary and material terms: car, house, spouse, body, clothing, and possessions. They use the guidance of consumerism and celebrity to determine what it is that will make them happy.

According to the practice of yoga, happiness is not obtained through monetary wealth or physical beauty. Happiness is achieved when we abide by certain principles that make us pure, strong, and cohesive—inside and out. Yoga means “union”. It is through living a yogic lifestyle that one finds union within, not without, and through this union, one can find bliss (Samādhi). 

The last chapter’s focus was on the first of the eight limbs of Aṣṭāṅga Yoga, Yama (or abstinences), and how they are necessary to live in harmony with the world, its people, animals, and with nature. For this chapter, the focus will be on the second limb, which describes Niyama. In Sanskrit, niyama is an “observance”. These observances lead the practitioner down a path of personal self-care:

  1. Śauca (cleanliness)
  2. Saṁtoṣa (contentment)
  3. Tapas (practice causing positive change)
  4. Svādhyāya (independent study)
  5. Īśvara-Praṇidhāna (humility and faith)

When combined with the yamas, these observances and abstinences are akin to that of several religious and spiritual ethical guidelines (the Ten Commandments of Christianity and Judaism, the ten virtues of Buddhism, etc.). These principles will help you to cultivate a positive relationship with yourself, purifying and strengthening your body, mind, and spirit.

How to Cultivate and Support Your Internal Relationship

Practicing Niyama is all about personal self-care. If yoga means “union”, then the niyamas are a series of lampposts on the path toward inner enlightenment. Nothing outside of yourself can bring you bliss, only your attitude, perspective, and inner wisdom can bring you joy. This union refers to meeting yourself, your Source, and connecting with the ever-present Awareness that exists in everything. 

Niyama means “observance”. As Nicolai Bahman points out, these are like “internal yama-s”. We already know that what energy you emit outward comes back to you through your actions (karma). The external world will respond to your actions in kind, either creating ease or dis-ease in your life. In the same way, when you begin to make observations about your behavior and its effects on your personal growth and health, you will begin to plan for transformation. This change may be difficult, but it will lead to a place of peace and fulfillment.

The first two niyamas are the bridge between your inner and outer worlds. They consist of preparing and maintaining your physical body, as well as living in acceptance of what is

Śauca (Cleanliness)

By purification arises disgust for one’s own body and for contact with other bodies.

The first niyama, or observance, is about purifying the body. Not only does this practice encompass the physical body, but it also refers to keeping a clear heart-mind. In the above Sūtra, Śrī Svāmī Saccidānanda translates Patāñjali’s words in a way that may make you wince. How is becoming disgusted with one’s own body healthy, and how can it lead to contentment? 

These words are not intended to make you hate your body however, they are intended for you to realize and understand that your body (and others’) is always impure. And it is in this realization that you come to terms with the fact that your body is temporary and needs consistent care. 

Purifying the body includes your mental and emotional energy centers. Cleanliness refers to the following aspects of living:

  1. Diet and exercise
  2. Daily hygiene routines
  3. Being honest and purging your emotions
  4. Abstaining from substance abuse
  5. Avoiding behaviors that defile or degrade the body

Living within this cleanliness requires balance. It is not appropriate to be so clean that you live in a state of anxiety and controlling behaviors. Remember, the need to control is an ego-driven behavior. Once we move onto the second niyama, the emphasis is on acceptance and contentment.

This Sūtra also explains the necessity to limit your physical desire for another’s body. This is not to say that sexual contact is unhealthy, because a healthy sex life is important however, this Sūtra means that the lust for another’s physical body will bring you less happiness than spiritual union within yourself. Yoga calls the practitioner to support the meeting of both feminine and masculine energies, which reside in all of us. We can do this by balancing our personalities and actions, being both assertive and nurturing. Here, we must observe our imbalances and work to purify the parts of us that are out of balance.

When you practice cleanliness, you work to prepare your body and mind for union. Śauca leads to happiness and controlling the senses, which ultimately lead to the necessary changes in one’s Self. It is like a meditative practice: When one notices or observes an impure thought, word, or action, then the practitioner can go back to the practices of cleanliness and the process will become more automatic.

How to Practice Cleanliness

The first part of cleanliness is to purify the body. Intertwined are mental and spiritual practices that help to support the mind and emotions. Participating in a daily routine (dinacharyā) that puts physical hygiene at the top of your personal care list is essential. An Āyurvedic self-care regimen is a good place to start (see the supplement at the end of this book for more information about Āyurveda, the sister science of yoga):

  1. Begin the day with a prayer or moment of gratitude. 
  2. Move onto elimination: Go to the bathroom, then cleanse your mouth and body from the night’s accumulation of bacteria. 

… (end of excerpt)

The Yogic Lifestyle: A Foundation for Freedom

Wrapping Up

… to continue reading from this chapter of The Yogic Lifestyle: A Foundation for Freedom please visit and order from the book’s page on Again, we hope you found this valuable and wish you health and happiness along your journey. Namaste.

Caleb Sharbono is a writer, bio-hacker, wellness advocate, and yogi. Caleb, who grew up on a small Montana ranch, joined the Navy at 17 to study cryptology. He later graduated from the US Naval Academy with a Minor in Mandarin, a Bachelor's in General Engineering, and a Major in English Literature. Caleb's interests and career cover diverse industries and disciplines. Caleb lives in San Antonio and is a Certified Yoga Instructor. He is also studying Zen Buddhism, practicing Holistic Psychology, and working towards his 300-hour yoga teacher training.


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