The Niyamas: Inward Observing – Exploring the 8 Limbs of Yoga


Whereas the Yamas place a lot of focus on recognizing ourselves in relation to the world around us, the Niyamas bring deeper focus to how we work on, and grow ourselves.

The Niyamas, or “observances,” provide an outline for self- exploration and development. By being open to exploring who we are, where we are at, and how to work with it, the Niyamas work with the Yamas to help us bring greater joy into life.

Contemplations on the Niyamas

Saucha entails working towards purity of body, mind, and living. This cleansing looks different for each of us. It may be meditation, breathing exercises, more asana, diet, but whatever form it takes, the cleansing lightens the loads we carry- be they toxins in the body or harmful thoughts in the mind. The purity of Saucha allows for clarity in seeing ourselves and the world around us in relation to one another.

Santosa calls us to accept and be content with what is, rather than trying to contrive what we want or expect. This acceptance and contentment is done through recognizing that all we need we have, and that there is no outward seeking that can grant us contentment. Ultimately, the more room we give for a person or situation to be, the less room there is for judgment and malcontent.

Tapas literally translates as “heat.” The heat of tapas refers to the difficulties that arise in relationship to others and ourselves, and how we meet those difficulties. In this way Tapas brings to mind reflections on self-discipline and how we utilize it effectively. Tapas speaks to our need to take on moments of transition and change as opportunities to grow, strengthen, and introspect… allowing the heat to meld us.

Svadhyaya is the ongoing, dogged, pursuit of knowing ourselves by studying what drives and shapes us. It asks us to look at the stories we manifest about ourselves and our world, and to challenge their truths. It seeks to reveal our incongruences in thought, practice, and relationships.

Ishvara Pranidhana, the final of the Yamas and Niyamas means “surrender.” Through practice of all these other principles, we come to a place where ultimately we must surrender to the reality that life knows what to do better than we do, and that only through devotion to some sort of higher self or being, can it manifest. It reminds us that surrender is required in our efforts at keeping an open heart, and that by floating with stream rather than up, we have a better view.

Try to keep in mind the Niyamas key concepts of purity, contentment, self-discipline, self-study, and surrender. Working these points, along with the Yamas, which are discussed in a sister article, can provide a lot of insight into what’s going on for us, on an internal and external level, and how we can grow from it all.


This article is part of a developing series for Be Here Now Network, exploring the 8 Limbs of Yoga, and the ways in which we can deepen our yoga practice by taking it’s teachings off the mat, and into our daily grind.
Amanda Hart is currently studying art therapy and clinical mental health counseling in the Graduate School of Transpersonal Psychology at Naropa University.
She is a 250 hour RYT. Born in the Blue Ridge, and currently transplanting in the Rockies.
This article was written for Be Here Now Network and is not to be replicated without consent of the author or the site. Photo via Sangha Springfield