Lesson 11 - Self Disciplines

In Lesson 10 you learned about the social disciplines that a Yogi needs to follow. Social disciplines is just one part of the story. The other part being self-disciplines. This lesson is going to introduce you with five self-disciplines.

The self-disciplines or Niyama as they are called in Yogic terms, are five in number and are listed below:

  • Shaucha or cleanliness
  • Santosha or contentment
  • Tapa or austerities
  • Svadhyaya or self-study
  • Ishwarapranidhana or surrendering to God

Cleanliness is a very important attribute. Often cleanliness is observed only about physical body. However, equally important is mental cleansing. For higher awakening the body and mind equipment must be clean. Impurities degrade spiritual progress. Bodily cleansing involves keeping external and internal body parts clean. Hatha Yoga includes a practice called Shatkarma that helps a lot to remove impurities caused by Kapha, Vata and Pitta. I will explain Shatkarmas in later lessons. Mental cleansing involves removing Tamasic and Rajasic thoughts and cultivating Sattvic qualities. Practices such as Pranayama and Japa help to cleanse your mind. These practices will be explained in later lessons.

Many of us are always unhappy with their present situation. Such unhappiness gives rise to craving. If you are constantly craving for material pleasures then your mind can not remain stable. Spiritual progress can not be made with mind full of material desires. Hence, one must learn to be satisfied with his own condition. Life gives us good as well as bad experiences but they should not disturb balance of our mind. Contentment teaches you to accept the life as it comes and focus on spiritual progress.

Austerities burn impurities from your mind and body. They also make you strong. It is important to remember that austerities does not mean torturing your body. For example, observing fast one day is completely safe and beneficial. However, if you starve your body by fasting frequently then it will prove to be harmful than good.

Yoga is a practical science. If you read thousands of books about it but practice nothing then it's of no use. That is why self-study is important. People often interpret Svadhyaya as study of scriptures however mere reading is useless. Svadhyaya refers to studying and implementing what you learnt in your life. Sincere and tireless practice is the key to success.

When we do some work we expect some returns. Thus "I" works and "I" gets the fruits. This is an attitude found everywhere. However, it feeds ego. Once "I" becomes strong then all activities are done for pleasing "I". Ishwarapranidhana refers to offering everything - good as well as bad - to the God. You work for God and fruits of your work are also offered to Him. This way you become a Karma Yogi free from the bondage of Karma.

In summary self-disciplines ensure that you live a controlled life. They ensure that your core focus is not wandered away because of material craving. They also make your mind-body equipment strong and healthy. In the next lesson I will explain the Shatkarma kriyas of Hatha Yoga that will help you to root out diseases and keep the body clean.

May the Peace be with you.

Bipin Joshi is an independent software consultant and trainer by profession specializing in Microsoft web development technologies. Having embraced the Yoga way of life he is also a yoga mentor, meditation teacher, and spiritual guide to his students. He is a prolific author and writes regularly about software development and yoga on his websites. He is programming, meditating, writing, and teaching for over 27 years. To read more about him go here. More details about his Kriya and Meditation online course are available here.

Posted On : 02 February 2007

Tags : Yoga Patanjali Raja Yoga Ashtanga Yoga Meditation Courses