Niyamas: Observances of Yoga | Chapter 5: Isvara-Pranidhana

Isvara-pranidhana is the practice of humility. Faith. Surrender. Dedication.

Before I was a yogi, I was an engineer. I was trained to ‘use your brain’, question everything and always find an answer. On top of that, I had little faith in anything – not God, not people around me, not really even myself or the purpose of existing. But when I started yoga teacher training, my whole life changed. I finally understood why my grandfather went to church every weekend for the past 80 years. Yoga was my becoming my church. It’s what lead me to feel apart of something greater than myself. I had finally found a practice of isvara-pranidhana – I had finally found faith.

For an engineering-trained brain like mine, having faith means accepting that it is OK to not always find the answer. You don’t have to understand why everything happens the way it does, and you probably never will. Trusting that there is a higher power/Universe/God/Spirit allows you to surrender to the flow of life and accept the situations you are presented that are out of your control. This is essentially the serenity prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” Having faith in the unknown and ‘unanswered’ deepens your ability to trust and love yourself, others around you, and the world we live in.

Comment below and share your experiences with Isvara-Pranidhana, or your faith. Do you believe in something greater than yourself? Can you think of a time where your mind got in the way of your faith?

Faith is an oasis in the heart which will never be reached by the caravan of thinking.”

Kahlil Gibran

Isvara-pranidhana Book: The Surrender Experiment

Isvara-pranidhana Exercise: Dance and sing like nobody is watching!

Isvara-pranidhana Mantra: Everything that exists is already within me.

Want to try some yoga? Check out my free classes!

Niyamas: Observances of Yoga | Chapter 5: Isvara-Pranidhana

Niyamas: Observances of Yoga | Chapter 4: Svadhyaya

Svadhyaya is the practice of self-study. Do you take time each day to reflect on your thoughts, words and actions?

Why is svadhyaya important? Self-reflection, self-awareness, self-knowledge, self-self-self. It almost seems… selfish. Yet we’ve all been on an airplane and heard “secure your air mask before assisting others.” In order to show up for the rest of the world, we have to make sure our energy tank is full enough to be in a position to assist, give, or share. To take care of ourselves, we must first know ourselves; what fills our energy tank, what are our needs, desires, passions, pains, judgements, areas of resistance, motivations behind actions, and so forth. Be curious about what makes you, you.

Svadhyaya requires us to look at ourselves honestly and objectively, letting go of personal feelings or opinions. Self-knowledge and understanding will grow as we see that we have two options to live each moment: either with inattention, fear and judgment, or with clarity, kindness and awareness. Comment below and share your experiences with svadhyaya, or self-study. When do you feel most in tune with yourself? When do you feel most out of touch with yourself?

“Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.”

Lao Tzu

Svadhyaya Exercise: Journal. Journaling is a great exercise to observe what you really feel about something. I journal with a pen and paper, but you can write in any way that feels good (for example, typing on your computer or painting with colors might feel better for you). Use it as a medium to express yourself – you might be surprised with what you come up with.

Svadhyaya Mantra: I question my answers.

Want to try some yoga? Check out my free classes!

Niyamas: Observances of Yoga | Chapter 4: Svadhyaya

Niyamas: Observances of Yoga | Chapter 3: Tapas

Tapas is the practice of igniting your inner fire. (No, this is not a blog on Spanish mini-meals). Tapas is a dedication to your highest self and towards developing healthy habits that are supportive, loving, and fueling. Through a consistent practice your unhealthy habits will naturally fall away.

Tapas is the practice of causing positive change in your life. Our inner fire (think energy and strength) is ignited when we are actually implementing our plan for self-improvement. Those actions, in turn, create a ripple effect of goodness in your life as it moves you into even more alignment, connectedness, wisdom, flow and peace. The heat generated by moving your life in a positive direction will burn up physical, mental, and emotional impurities.

Have you ever gotten lost in a flow state where times flies by and you feel great? That’s your inner fire, tapas, guiding you – lean in. You can visualize the fire within you coming from your stomach area, or solar plexus. We feel our willpower from this third chakra area, and is why we ‘go with our gut’ on instincts. On the flip side, be careful that your fire doesn’t burn out of control by feeding it the wrong fuel.

Comment below and share your experiences with tapas. What makes you most ‘fired-up’ in life?

Tapas Exercises: (1) Write something that you need to let go of down on a piece of paper. Burn the piece of paper (safely, please).

(2) Practice positive change in your daily life. What small actions can you take to implement self-improvement practices and ‘nourish the flame’?

(3) Practice yoga asana and burn some calories. You’re in luck, free classes here!

Vinyasa Flow with Kenia 72 | March 17th, 2021

Niyamas: Observances of Yoga | Chapter 3: Tapas

Niyamas: Observances of Yoga | Chapter 2: Santosha

Santosha means contentment. Before you read this blog, take a moment and list 10 things (yes, 10) that you are grateful for.

Santosha means contentment for who we are and where we are at in life. Santosha does not mean laziness or complacency, in fact, those are near enemies of a santosha lifestyle. Everything is moving or changing every single moment, which means a constant acceptance of our present situation is necessary. Situations are temporary. Your inner light of awareness is the only thing that does not change. When we fixate or try to control a situation or outcome, aka resist the flow of life, we will not feel contentment or gratitude.

Practicing santosha leaves you feeling satisfied and fulfilled. Not longing for more and accepting what you have opens the space for deep, inner happiness. We can practice santosha every day (every moment) by being grateful for the abundance that we have right now, and having faith that future abundance is there so long as we are true to ourselves. It may be difficult, but the more you can inquire about why you are dissatisfied with something, the more you can learn about yourself and co-create your best life.

Comment below and share your experiences with Santosha. Is content a word you would use to describe yourself? How about gracious?

Santosha Exercise: Gratitude Check! Go back to the list of 10 things you are grateful for. Add 10 new things to this list every single day!

My list today: my house, my next meal, the yoga class I took today, the yoga class I taught today, The Studio, my job at Healthy Horizons, my boyfriend, my family, large sticky pads, and the newfound craft of blog writing

Santosha Mantra: I will set reasonable expectations for myself (and others, if communicated) and fully expect whatever happens.

Want to try some yoga? Check out my free classes!

Niyamas: Observances of Yoga | Chapter 2: Santosha

Niyamas: Observances of Yoga | Chapter 1: Sauca

At this point we’ve made it through the first limb of yoga, the yamas, or the internal ethics of yoga. Now we move onto the second (there are eight total) limb of yoga, the niyamas. Niyamas are how we are externally; how we take care of our body, heart-mind and immediate surroundings. Sauca, the first niyama, is the most external.

Sauca means cleanliness and purity. Both outer and inner cleanliness are necessary to maintain our health and sanity. Are you aware of what the affects are of what you put in your body? The music you listen to? The news you read? Everything you consume influences the purity of your life and either takes you closer to or father away from your truest self.

Constant clutter on the outside can indicate clutter on the inside. Clutter is not only physical ‘stuff’ but also external opinions and judgements. This day and age we are constantly bombarded with information that aims to clutter our minds and sway our opinions. The more we are grounded in our virtues and values, the less room there will be for external clutter to creep in. The end result of practicing sauca is a heart-mind that is happy, focused, undistracted by sensory perceptions, and connected to its divine, inner power.

Comment below and share your experiences with sauca and how you practice ‘staying clean.’ Have you ever ‘come clean’ and admitted something you were bottling up? How did that feel?

“Cleanliness is indeed next to godliness.”

John Wesley

Sauca Exercises: Clear out a food from your diet (start with the pantry!) that you know does not sit well with your body. Clear out a word from your vocabulary that you no longer wish to use. Choose not to talk about other people (unless it’s in a positive way).

Sauca Mantra: I keep my body, heart-mind, and surroundings clean and uncluttered.

Want to try some yoga? Check out my free classes!

Niyamas: Observances of Yoga | Chapter 1: Sauca

Yamas: Ethical Practices of Yoga | Chapter 5: Aparigraha

Aparigraha means non-grasping, non-hoarding, and letting go. Aparigraha is my all time favorite yama practice because of the freedom and openness it brings to my life. When we let go of that which does not serve us or bring us joy, we create space for more happiness, well-being, clarity, intuition and wisdom. How can we effortlessly let go of that which does not serve us? Or better yet, how can we know what isn’t serving us to begin with?

Aparigraha is synonymous with a minimalism or essentialism practice. It is the practice of taking only what you need or will use. The more ‘stuff’ you have on the outside, the less time you have to go inside to discover true self. In the same way that we let go of material items that we no longer need or will use, we can also energetically let go of limiting beliefs, negative thoughts, judgments, biases and identities that no longer serve us (and probably never have).

Ego. loves. attachment. Most importantly, be mindful of how you self-identify in your mind and your attachments to the titles you give yourself. Do you tend to identify yourself with more external titles such as ‘I am a doctor,’ ‘I am an MBA student,’ or with more internal observances such as ‘I am kind,’ ‘I am gracious,’ or simply, ‘I am’? One group is exceedingly more fulfilling than the other.

The final yama! I now send you out into the big, wide world to explore the first limb of yoga of your own. As you intentionally incorporate yamas into your life, you will soon see the expansiveness of the inward discovery towards self knowledge. Up next: the 5 niyamas.

‘It is preoccupation with possessions, more than anything else, that prevents us from living freely and nobly.’

Henry David Thoreau

Aparigraha Exercise: This is the perfect time to spring clean your space and get rid of things that no longer serve you nor bring you joy! Incorporate decluttering practices more frequently and bring awareness to where you tend to clutter your space; office, kitchen, mind, etc.

Aparigraha Mantra: I take only what I need or will use.

Want to try some yoga? Check out my free classes!

Yamas: Ethical Practices of Yoga | Chapter 4: Brahmacarya

Brahmacarya means proper use of energy. Before you read this blog, take a moment and think: On the pendulum of “being so busy you can’t think straight” to living like a monk in isolation, where do you fall?

Hopefully you land somewhere right in the middle, not too far to either one side. Brahmacarya, the 4th of 5 yamas or ethical yoga practices, is the practice of moderation and staying-somewhere-in-the-middle. It’s not about stepping back from being brave and courageous on our life advents, it’s about knowing when to work, and when to rest. Practicing brahmacarya helps us keep our lives in harmony and balance. After all, your own energy is your most vital resource.

Do you fall down the rabbit hole of satisfying external desires that only excite for a short time, or are you filling your cup with meaningful experiences that support your growth and future self? We all tend to get distracted by our impulses – it’s part of the human mind. But the more awareness we have of our patterns, impulse reactions, and unconscious biases, the better. Brahmacarya is the practice of consciously channeling that energy into something more useful, meaningful, fulfilling.

Only one yama left! In my upcoming blog you’ll learn about the fifth of five yamas, aparigraha (non-grasping). Follow along as we explore these insightful topics. You can go back and read about the first yama, ahimsa, second yama, satya, and third yama, asteya, at any time.

Comment below and share your experiences with brahmacarya and practicing moderation.

Brahmacarya Exercise: Reflect on an aspect of your life that seems out of balance. Can you identify what it was that took you away from your highest-self? Can you identify some small steps that will help you move back into alignment?

Brahmacarya Mantra: I use my energy in responsible and appropriate ways. I am intentional with where I spend my time and energy.

Want to try some yoga? Check out my free classes!

Yamas: Ethical Practices of Yoga | Chapter 3: Asteya

Asteya means non-stealing. Before you read this blog, take a moment and think: Have you ever taken up somebody else’s time or energy for your own fulfillment that they might have better spent on something else? [Don’t be an energy vampire!]

Our third yama, asteya, means non-stealing. We’ve been taught since we were children that stealing is bad, but that typically referred to physical items that could be sneakily slid into our pockets. Have you ever thought about what else could be stolen, or taken from another, or ever from yourself? Asteya also means non-stealing of other people’s time, energy, ‘moments.’ In regards to inner, personal practice, asteya means we are non-stealing from our future selves.

Giving is the gift. When we are living from a place of unconditional love, when we can give without having an expectation of receiving something in return, we are practicing asteya. The act of giving contains the priceless gift of making someone feel loved. Asteya also means we accept only what is earned or freely given. Practicing asteya will help you build trust with yourself and with others.

Only two yamas left! In my upcoming blogs you’ll learn about brahmacarya (right use of energy) and aparigraha (non-grasping). Follow along as we explore these insightful topics. You can go back and read about the first yama, ahimsa, and second yama, satya at any time.

Comment below and share your experiences with asteya, generosity, and receptivity. Are you more of a giver or receiver? Can you think of a time when you took more than you needed? Or a time when you had a hard time accepting a compliment? Share below!

“Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”

Lao Tzu

Asteya Exercise: Think of someone who does a lot for you or your community. Offer this person a small gift, even if it’s just a simple text that tells them you appreciate them.

Asteya Mantra: I will not take what is not mine. I will receive what is readily given, thereby participating in the continuous flow of the universe.

Interested in doing some free yoga? Check out my latest class!

Yamas: Ethical Practices of Yoga | Chapter 2: Satya

Satya means truthfulness. Before you read this blog, take a moment: Think about something that you once thought to be the truth, but now do not. Did you resist the change, or accept the new truth with ease and grace?

Satya means truthfulness and sincerity. Being truthful and sincere allows us to perceive reality as it is and communicate clearly what we believe to be true. We live satya when our thoughts, words and actions are aligned. When aligned, our power is amplified (imagine how beams of light coming together can produce fire) and there is no resistance in life, no tension, no uncontrolled chaos. Life becomes simpler.

Satya practice starts with having a clear and compassionate heart-mind. When we have a clear mind and compassionate heart we perceive reality as it actually is, without ego interfering. The hardest part of practicing satya is that we let our egos get in the way. Lying, to ourselves or to others, is a learned behavior that is there to protect our egos and provide us with a false sense of belonging. If your ego is guiding your thoughts, words, and actions, there will always be an aching feeling in your mind, heart and/or gut. Listen to these feelings, because your body will tell you when you are being untruthful. Your body cannot lie.

It is important to accept that what we believe to be true can change from time to time, and also differ from one person to the next. What I perceive as the truth through my view of the world can be completely different from what you perceive as the truth, even if we are viewing the exact same reality. To practice satya we must be willing and able to adapt to change when new information is presented. The more we practice satya, the more we will notice our preconceived biases and patterns.

As promised, the next three blogs will be on the last three yamas, or yogic ethical practices; asteya (non-stealing), brahmacarya (right use of energy) and aparigraha (non-grasping). Follow along as we explore these insightful topics. You can go back and read about the first yama, ahimsa, to see how compassion and truthfulness play into each other.

Comment below and share your experiences practicing truthfulness and sincerity. If you’re feeling really brave, share a lie you told (to yourself or to others) and why you think you told that lie. How did it feel? Did you feel out of alignment with your highest self? Is there an area in your life where you notice you have a hard time telling the truth?

“The least initial deviation from the truth is multiplied later a thousandfold.”

Aristotle

Satya Exercise: If you are feeling like you are about to tell a lie, no matter how small, PAUSE, imagine dropping the space of the head into the space of the heart, and then respond from there. This should feel very freeing.

Satya Mantra: I am responsible to align my thoughts, words, and actions.

Interested in doing some free yoga? Check out my latest class!

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