The Niyamas are the second step of the Ashtanga Yoga. These are the rules the yogi should stick to on his yoga path in order to develop and purify body and mind.
There are 5 Niyamas:
1) Shaucha: purity
2) Santosha: contentment
3) Tapa: endurance and discipline
4) Swadhyaya: self study
5) Ishwara Pranidhana: total surrender to the Divine
1. Shaucha: purity
Our body, mind and intellect are no longer pure because we have added things and thoughts to them. These instruments can be purified by applying the specific Shaucha purifying techniques. The Hatha yoga prescribes different ways to purify the inside of the body. These purifying techniques are divided in 6 major categories called the Shatkarmas:
Dhauti: different cleansing techniques of the digestive system (Danta, Hrid, Varisar, Vanhisar)
Basti: technique for wahsing and toning the big intestines and the rectum
Neti: cleansing of the nasal passages
Trataka: concentration on an object, helps to clean the eyes and the mind
Nauli: massaging and strengthening the abdominal organs
Kapalbhati: breathing techniques of cleansing of the lungs and purifying the mind
These techniques are only to be practiced under the guidance of an experienced yoga teacher.
Santosha is meant to create a mental attitude that brings our mind into a balanced state and keeps it that way. Santosha means that at any given time you have a thankful and joyful attitude and that you remain calm under any circumstances. This mental state does not depend on external factors.
We have to learn to control our mind in such a way that we can always react correctly under different circumstances. Specific circumstances have an influence on our mind that has to react to them: this can disturb the mental balance and at the same time the physical wellbeing of our body.
In order to avoid such disturbances, we need to train our mind to always react with contentment, to always react in contentment, always react in a positive way by saying "very nice". A constant training of the Ashtanga yoga and a training of the mind through Mantra Sadhana is necessary in order to develop this attitude.
3. Tapa: austerity and self discipline
If we want to reach the ultimate goal of yoga we need discipline in order to follow the yoga path.
This includes various practices with the goal to purify body and mind of the Sadhaka (yoga) for further study and practice of the yoga.
This includes fasting, follow different vows so we can control the functioning of our body and mind. Systematic training starts with the simple exercises that require willpower in order to evolve to the more difficult exercise in a later stadium.
4. Swadhyaya: self study
An important part of the discipline is that the yogi studies the different aspects of the yoga philosophy. Self study is a process to gain theoretical and practical knowledge. According to Patanjali the Yogi needs to approach the self study with a 3-folded attitude:
Deerghakal: for a long period
Naiantarya: with no interruptions
Sataskarasevito: with full and unconditional faith
The type of study is to be determined by the individual self.
5. Ishwara Pranidhana: total surrender to the Devine
Progressive practice of Ishwara Pranidhana will most definitely lead to Samadhi (the union of Atam and Paratman). Ishwara Pranidhana is the process of transforming from human to God. It starts with the concept of loosing the identity of self and emerging from it with Ishwara the God.
These efforts can take many forms according to the temperament and the previous goals of the yogi.