Patanjali and Niyama in Yogic Philosophy - Yoga Practice Blog

Patanjali and the Concept of Niyama in Yogic Philosophy

Patanjali the writer and compilerBy Faye Martins

Patanjali compiled and wrote about the foundational principles of modern Yoga and its application to life. Contemporary Yoga philosophy is the more subtle and deeper contemplation of the integration of Yoga’s wisdom and practices into daily life. There are many different areas of Yogic philosophy including very detailed instructions on awakening the Kundalini energy, extremely detailed nuances of Yoga asana alignment, and specialized breathing techniques to accompany meditative practices.

Teachings of Maharishi Patanjali

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras are considered to be a sacred Yogic road map on the spiritual journey through life. In his Yoga Sutras, Patanjali describes an assortment of advanced Yogic practices that help to quell the fluctuating vrittis of the mind. In order to support an outer practice of Yoga asanas, pranayama, and moral restraints, Patanjali also details advanced, internal practices of personal awareness and responsibility.

Niyamas – The Observances

These observations include the inner practice of contentment, the willingness to engage in the fire of Tapas or sacrifice and Swadhaya or self-study. Through a diligent practice of these Niyamas, the fire of Yoga is stoked and a student is able to make great progress on the spiritual path.

The practice of Santosha (contentment) generates feelings of wellbeing, trust, and abundance in a Yoga practitioner’s life. It is an advanced Yogic philosophical practice that encourages a practitioner to see all of his or her life experiences as an opportunity to reach for the light, instead of falling into darkness, despair and self-pity.

This practice goes to the very heart of our experience of being connected to God and the entire web of life. The Niyama of Ishvarapranidhana goes hand in hand with the internal adherence to Santosha. Ishvarapranidhana is the practice of being constantly aware of the sacredness of all of life, and the divine energy that pulsates through the vibrating matrix of all existence.

The advanced Yogic philosophy of implementing the Niyamas we know as “Tapas” and “Swadhyaya” into one’s personal Yoga training sessions help to keep the fire of the awakened Kundalini Shakti very strong. The willingness to practice Tapas by sacrificing a smaller desire in order to align oneself more strongly with the divine energy is critical to advanced practices. The practice of Tapas can come in the form of the abstaining from consumption of material possessions, food, shallow relationships, alcohol, drugs, leisure, and so on.

There are also more subtle aspects of Tapas in the form of fasting from negative or self-defeating thinking patterns about oneself or others. Releasing these negative thoughts and actions is supported by the practice of Swadhyaya (self-study and the study of sacred literature). Swadhyaya is classically engaged in during writing exercises, reading, or the chanting of sacred mantras and texts. These contemplative exercises help you to see your mind much more clearly and know what sacrifices must be made if you are to continue to grow on the spiritual path.

Yogic Philosophy Applied to Life

Yogic philosophy covers a broad range of practices and disciplines. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras outlines many of these advanced Yogic philosophical points and practices. Ultimately, a disciplined and integrated adherence to advanced Yogic teachings and philosophies will support a practitioner in becoming an embodiment of divine grace.

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4 thoughts on “Patanjali and the Concept of Niyama in Yogic Philosophy”

  1. According to Patanjali “Shouch santostapaswadhyayeshwar pranidhanani niyamah”//2:32//
    In chapter two, sutra 32 Patanjali describes five niyamas i. e. rules of human behaviuor. These are-
    Shouch= Cleaniness; Santos= Contentment; Tapa= Austerities; Swadhyaya= Ones own regular study and Ishwar Pranidhan= Surrender to God. Therefore, talking only about three out of five is half truth.

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