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).
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.