So what are the Niyamas?

head stand-Shirshasana - Ricardo das NevesI thought you’d never ask. They’re five: Saucha, or purity–

The only time I want to run into that word is when it describes my tap water.

Here it refers to physical purity through cleanliness, proper exercise, relaxation, breathing, and diet; abundance of water intake, and eating wholesome foods.

Do Twinkies fall in that last category?

As they say, “Garbage in, garbage out.” Mental purity in thoughts and moods is hard without physical purity. You pay attention to your thoughts and moods but also to what literally feeds them, because ultimately having enough centeredness to weather surface emotions prepares you for santosha.

Another exciting item, I’m sure.

Lunge pose-Ashva Sanchalanasana - Ricardo das NevesSantosha is the cultivation of contentment. It’s putting your happiness above any circumstances that could pull you away from contentment if you allowed them to.

Yes! Finally one niyama that I can get behind!

Yes, and differentiating levels of contentment will improve with your attention to it, as there’s a difference between absence of a bad mood, giggles, and open-hearted good humor. Which brings us to Svadhyana: self-contemplation. Self-study. You observe yourself and start to distinguish moods, choices, impulses. To help with that, yoga recommends reading good books and self-improving ones.

But I have no discipline for that kind of stuff…

Well, Tapas, the next niyama, tells you to develop the discipline necessary to focus your energy cohesively: body, mind, senses, intelligence.

I’ve got one word for you: how?

Set your mind repeatedly on the things your need to do and the discipline to do them follows. Your mind is like a homing device: where it focus, you go. If you can’t quite do it, keep focusing on it, again and again and again and again.

All right, is that five niyamas now?

child pose-Balasana - Ricardo das NevesOne last one: Ishvara Pranidhana: There are three stages in life: the “me” stage, when most of what you do is for your gain or enjoyment; the “we” stage when, whether in relationship or in society, you look to serve your needs and others’; and the “spirit” stage, when you feel like you are a conduit for Spirit, breathing in and through you. In giving your desires and actions over to the service of Spirit, you may outwardly look and sound the same, but to you, the world is a radically different experience, the closest of which you’ve ever come is being in love.

Is that it for the niyamas?

Yes. This brings us to the next limb of yoga, Pratyahara, the sense withdrawal.