According to classical yoga, Patanjali has 8 different “limbs” creating a structural framework for yoga. A few months ago I explored the first of these, the Yamas.
Where the Yamas were a set of restraints with which to live by, the second limb or 5 Niyamas, are observances or “internal practices”. These practices extend beyond the ethical codes provided by the first limb to the practicing yogi’s internal environment of body, mind and spirit.
The practice of Niyamas provide us with a positive environment, giving us self-discipline and inner strength. In my previous blog Yamas for Mamas I explored how the seemingly negative connotations of the Yamas could be applied in a positive way for mamas. Let’s now continue the positive approach in exploration of the Niyamas.
The Niyamas constitute a code for living that fosters the soulfulness of the individual. ~ Donna Farhi
Niyamas on the mat
On the mat the Niyamas are an internal exploration of ourselves, leaving our egos at the door, allowing us to practice from a place of authenticity. Never is there a time to be more internally aware and mindful in our practice than during the journey of motherhood.
Whatever our practice used to be before kids, motherhood is opportunity to honour where we’re at and let go of previous expectations.
Yoga allows us to find an inner peace that is not ruffled or riled by the endless stresses and struggles of life. ~ B.K.S. Iyengar
Niyamas off the mat
The practice of Niyamas are arguably more important off the mat than on. Niyamas are our commitment to ourselves, behaviours that we aim to practice in order to cultivate greater self love and greater kindness to ourselves and others.
The eight limbs are a collection of threads of yogic wisdom that Master Patanjali, known as the father of yoga, documented and explain how we show up in our lives and in the world. All the elements that you explore on the mat can be equally applied to your daily lives.
Saucha ~ purity
To practice Saucha be clear with your intention, asking yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing when faced with challenges and novelties. If we had a strong practice or exercise regime before having children then this can be quite a change – having to truly question the ego when it comes to setting your intention, stepping on the mat and into your physical practice or stepping off and into life. Just because you did something before doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right for you now. Being able to discern the difference is powerful.
Santosha ~ contentment
Learn how to accept yourself, being able to conquer your fears and progress in your practice with self-awareness in Santosha. Linking very closely to the first, this speaks strongly to us as mamas. Life has changed, your body has changed, things will never be quite as they were before and that is ok. Being content not only with the fact that things are different, but that life will continue to change, ebb and flow is key. Learn to flow not force through life.
Tapas ~ self discipline
Tapas requires us to establish a regular practice and stick to it. For mamas this is definitely a challenge, but what this is also asking of us is to let go of any previous expectations. Of course it’s unlikely that you’ll now be able to get up and practice yoga (or whatever previous activity you did) for an hour each day by yourself. Similarly, you won’t be able to continue to practice life as you did before having children. However, letting go of these expectations and moving forward can be liberating. Focus on simply stepping onto the mat each day, even if it’s just for a minute. Embrace the changes and commit yourself to small achievements on a daily basis rather than waiting for that perfect opportunity that may never come.
Svadhyaya ~ self study
Yoga is a science of wellbeing through self-study or svadhyaya, where we learn a lot about our physical bodies, mind and states of consciousness. As mamas this self-study takes on another level, as we now explore our way through our role as a mother. Our bodies have changed, our lifestyles have altered, our priorities are different. Explore your life as it is now.
Ishvara Pranidhana ~ surrender
Ishvara Pranidhana calls on us to let go of our desire to navigate and instead accept and surrender to the journey without knowing where the path takes us. Enough said – this is the key to the journey of motherhood. We ride an unpredictable wave and having that ability to let go and surrender to circumstances and changes can give you a sense of freedom. It’s not without it’s challenges of course, but constantly pushing or trying to live up to others expectations will only cause anxiety and stress. Trust your intuition, trust that you are doing your best and surrender to the journey.
Be in the moment and move forward from there, embrace what life is offering.
The Yamas & Niyamas are not a quick fix by any means and take a lifetime to cultivate, because you are always working, progressing and considering them. They are another tool, however that we can draw upon in this crazy journey called motherhood.