Meet the TTs | Niyamas


As I prepare to embark on silent meditation retreat with my dear Three Jewels sangha I am reminded of the two Niyamas Michael and Brian share below, Saucha, or purity, and Ishvara Pranidanah, or surrender.  Retreat is such a perfect opportunity to cleanse the mind as you have the opportunity to be completely selective with all that you consume for a few days. In my first experience on silent meditation retreat, I found surrender essential when working so intimately with the mind.   I am so thankful for the opportunity to move deeply into this practice with the support of these precious jewels.

With gratitude,

Allison Joy Phillips, Director of Yoga

SAUCHA | Shared by Michael McSwain

Although yoga teachers extol the virtue of wearing clean underwear to class, it's not exactly what Master Patanjali had in mind to describe saucha. So before we all jump in the shower and catch up on laundry in the name of saucha, let's see how this millennia-old concept stacks up to our modern cleaning rituals. 

It's become comically easy to live in a 'clean' environment these days. Our daily culture even caters instant, effortless cleanliness. We use brand names like verbs, but we can't swiffer and purell our way to saucha.

Saucha in the yogic sense is deeply concerned with inner purity as much as outer purity. Inner purity is not just about getting the dirt out--it's also mindfully knowing what you put in. How pure is the food you eat? How pure are the books you read? The music you listen to? The news you absorb? 

Saucha can be cultivated and tended by consuming higher quality nutrition--in all its forms. What we feed our minds and bodies becomes the foundation of what we work with on and off the yoga mat. Our mood, our thoughts, our senses, our physical and mental strength, our capacity for self-realization--these things are only reliable when we know the mind and body are operating from a pure and clean slate.

Some folks (like me) do their best thinking in the shower. So the next time you're washing away all that NYC grit, consider the ways you can also keep your inner world just as fresh and so clean clean.


ISHVARA PRANIDANAH | Shared by Brian Cooney

I initially met this Niyama, which means surrender to a higher power, with difficulty. It brought up similar discomfort I felt as a child when force-fed the dogma of Catholicism, which I did not connect with.

Generating reverence for a teacher was a foreign concept for me until I was introduced to it as part of Three Jewels Meditation Teacher Training. Likewise, I struggled to understand and really dive into this preliminary of meditation.

Since beginning the journey of Three Jewels Sarva Yoga Teacher Training, I have developed reverence for my teacher, Michael Hewett. Watching Michael mindfully walk his path with humility and devotion, has awakened me to the possibilities that I can do likewise. He has so drastically expanded my awareness and conceptualization of yoga feels like such a gift. 

Practicing gratitude and opening up my heart has helped me to integrate the idea of Ishvara Pranidanah into my practice and it continues to reveal new depths as I become more steady and committed to the path.

 Michael McSwain (L) and Brian Cooney (R)

Michael McSwain (L) and Brian Cooney (R)

Meet the TTs | Niyamas

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The second limb of the eight-limbed path of Ashtanga Yoga is Niyama. Whereas the first limb (Yama) teaches yogis specific things to avoid, similar to Lama Je Tsongkhapa's first principal path of Buddhism (renunciation), the Niyamas outline how we move forward to progress toward our goal of enlightenment, or complete Self-realization. To share the teachings of these observances, Anna, Janina and Muir offer their thoughts on Santosha (contentment), Svadhyaya (Self-study) and Tapas (discipline). 

With reverence,

Allison Joy Phillips, Director of Yoga

SANTOSHA | Shared by Anna Kuhn

Santosha is contentment with the way things are at exactly this moment in time. Especially in New York, “contentment” can be misinterpreted to mean lazy, unambitious or apathetic. However, my experience is that “contentment” is an antidote for the aforementioned and is the most solid base we can offer ourselves to grow and from which to receive higher ideas.

So, how do we pour that foundation? We can start by finding a sweet spot between FOMO (grasping) and JOMO (wishing for “other”). Eff ‘em both! Contentment comes from the practice of:

Recognizing the fear or joy itself...or inspiration, or suffering, or pleasure, or pain, or ecstasy, or wonder...that the actual surroundings and circumstances of an experience provoke (in other words, put down Instagram for a second, friend, and look up!)

Finding a reason to be thankful for each experience and feeling the resulting chemical impulse (there's always something you can at least learn from...everything. Really. Everything.)

Giving that emotion and situation a little kiss on the forehead and releasing it back into the ether when you've made your peace. 

The negative teaches us, the positive rewards us, but neither will stick around forever (or even for the next full hour, probably). The repeat process (practice) of catching, thanking, and releasing keeps us humble, grounded, and receptive to what’s really out there...and ultimately to what can be.

I’ll end with my favorite guiding principle around this concept:
“When you finally achieve humility, no one can take anything away from you.” -Radhanath Swami


SVADHYAYA | Shared by Janina Fisher

The fourth Niyama (observance), Svadhyaya is the practice of "Self-study" or literally, "one's own reading, lesson." 

A related idea that resonates deeply with me is one I learned from Michael Hewett: "The one thing we know, is that we do not know." For me, Svadhyaya is exactly this. When I begin to unwrap who I am it is so entwined with ideas and stories ...where does the story end and I begin? 

I am also reminded of something taught by Gina De La Chesnaye: "You are so much more powerful than you know." It took me a while to unpack this, but I believe it to refer to an unknown transcendence of something larger than me that I am part of.  I think in modern, western life this part of Svadhyaya is hard to understand but is an essential aspect of understanding oneself.


TAPAS | Shared by Muir Palmer

Isn’t that the word for small plates of tasty Spanish cuisine? Oh, self-discipline, you say. This is my Achilles heel.

I consciously choose self-discipline and growth but I eventually fall into self-sabotage. The gremlins in my head distract me with shiny objects, lure me to stay in bed another 15 minutes, and lead me down the path most taken. 

Many of my friends have said to me “I love how you live your life in the moment.” But that’s not always a good thing. I am the gal who too many times has chosen to forsake future rewards for momentary pleasures. When I do set an intention or goal that requires self-discipline over a period of time, I usually meet this goal with some temporary success, but it’s mind boggling (or is it?) how easily good intentions can go off the rails.

Since beginning yoga teacher training at Three Jewels, I feel the heat - in a good way. It’s subtle, it sneaks up on me, and shows me, through my own actions (and reactions) that I am transforming. Not just my body from the physical asana practice, but my state of mind, my open heart, my patience, my contentment. It’s beaming internally loud & clear and I feel it.  The spiritual effort I am putting into my training is a catharsis I have been yearning for my entire life. 

                       Anna Kuhn              

                      Anna Kuhn              

                         Janina Fisher

                        Janina Fisher

                  Muir Palmer        

                 Muir Palmer