Ishvara Pranidhana: Surrender

“The moment of surrender is not when life is over. It´s when it begins.” –Marianne Williamson

The practice of surrender invites us to be active participants in our life, totally present and fluid with each moment, while appreciating the magnitude and mystery of what we are participating in.

It is as if we are dancing, and our dance partner is life. Each morning when you wake up you get a new invitation, to participate, to dance. We don´t get to lead, nor do we drag our feet behind. As a dance partner to life, we are asked to be vulnerable and undefended, and yet so present that we can follow the next move, wherever the leading step takes us, adding our own style as we go (sorry, dance, of course).

Life knows what to do better than we do. Our task is simply to let go and receive each moment with an open heart, and then dance skillfully with it.

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Svadhyaya: Self-Study

The author of the book “The Yamas & Niyamas” talks about boxes for making this comparison, but for whatever reason, I have the “Russian dolls”, coming to mind instead, and for some, they use the image of an onion. Regardless of which image works for you, this guideline of Svadhyaya, or self-study, is about realizing that we all have different “layers” that makes us, well, us. And that this guideline is about getting to know ourselves, by understanding the “boxes” we are packaged in.

The yogis teach that we, at our core, are divine consciousness. But because of our upbringing, our experiences in life, and our belief systems, we have packed ourselves into these “boxes”. These boxes are things like how we identify ourselves, what we believe to be true, our preferences and dislikes, our fears and imagination.

We suffer, the yogis tell us, because we forget who we are. We think we are the boxes, and forget that we are really the Divine “hiding” inside.

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Tapas: Self-Discipline

Maybe I´m not the only one thinking about food when hearing the word “tapas”?! And indeed, it is the same word. In Sanskrit this word literally means “heat”. And in English the most common way to describe it is “self-discipline”, but one could also translate it as spiritual effort, change, or transformation, which might be more “enjoyable” or at least appealing for me. Transformation has for me more of a positive meaning. But as so often with both the yamas and the niyamas, this is no walk in the park, so to say.

Tapas has the sense of “cooking” ourselves in the fire of discipline to transform ourselves into something else.

Tapas is the day to day choice to burn non-supportive habits of the body and mind, choosing to forsake momentary pleasures for future rewards.

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Santosha: Contentment

“Contentment makes poor men rich. Discontent makes rich men poor” – Benjamin Franklin

In general most of us are pretty bad at being content with what we have. We always want more, more and, then some more. Society is constantly feeding us with advertising about all the things we need to have to be happy, to show that we have succeeded, or to simply look good. The trends are changing fast and you better keep up with the latest trends so that you can prove you´re not a failure… or, is there another way?!

This guideline reminds us that we have the power within us. And that when we look outwards for fulfillment we hand over that power to something, or someone else, and that will always disappoint us and keep contentment at least one step (if not several steps) out of reach.

As long as we think satisfaction comes from an external source we can never be content.

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Saucha: Purity

With this we have now left the five yamas, and take the plunge into the five niyamas. As a reminder or summary if you so will, one can say that the yamas are “restraints”, or ethical practices, while the niyamas are “observances” or daily practices.

Saucha invites us to purify our bodies, our thoughts,
and our words.

Through the purification, both the physical and the mental, we become less heavy, and less burdened. As we purify ourselves from toxins, distractions, illusions, and clutter, we are more able to become pure in our relationship with each moment.

How to become pure? How do we purify ourselves? The short answer is that the steps to cleanse and purify ourselves will look different to each and every one of us. There are numerous ways to “purify the body”. It doesn’t have to be particularly complicated or weird.

Whatever form the purification takes, it always begins with an intention to “lighten the load” that we are carrying.

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