Niyamas - the care we show ourselves
The second limb of yoga as described by Patanjali are the Niyamas. The first limb, the Yamas, are concerned with out we live in the world. The Niyamas are more personal and cover how we should care for and treat ourselves.
Shaucha - self purification. This Niyama refers to how you care for your body inside and out. We all know what we should eat and drink to be healthy - doing it can be quite another story! Shaucha doesn't mean just eating lettuce, it means giving your body what it needs today to function in the best way possible. Also washing and dressing in a way that makes you feel good. You don't need a ballgown and a full face of make up for the school run, but most of us feel better if we've managed to brush our teeth and stick ourselves in the shower of the morning. Shaucha refers to the basic self care actions that we can take every day that can make a huge difference to our overall welling.
Santosha - contentment. The first step of contentment if often acceptance, of who you are and where you are right now. Letting go of expectations and finding the joy in the small things. After a year of global pandemic it can get hard to feel content with the ways things are, but there will be a few things every day that you can find to be grateful for every day. Thinking of three things you are grateful for as you lie in bed before you go to sleep can be a really nice way to end the day. Finding time to stop every day, even if its for 30 seconds, and look at the sunshine (or the snow!), eat your favourite food, watch your favourite film. Whatever you have in the present moment is enough.
Tapas - self-discipline. This can come across as a bit negative, as if you're forcing yourself to do something you don't really want to. The key to Tapas (a bit like a New Year's Resolution) is to accept it gladly in the knowledge that you are bringing about a change in yourself for the better, and start small. Want to stop having three sugars in your tea? Start with two and a half and work down slowly. Want to drink a bit less? Start with a smaller glass, or give yourself a couple of alcohol free days where you plan something really fun to do instead (like come to a yoga class!). Small changes are easier to stick to and more likely to bring about lasting change.
Svadhyaya - self-study. How well do you know yourself? I mean really? Are the expectations you place on yourself yours or society's? Do you know the warning signs that you're starting to have a tough time and what do you do about it if you do? This can be a hard Niyama to get your head around so again start small. Start with how am I feeling today? Observing yourself when you react to something, without judgment but a sense of curiosity. Journalling can be a good place to start, as can yoga practice and meditation or mindfulness exercises. There is so much noise in every day life a lot of the time what is on the inside gets drowned out.
Ishvara Pranidhana - self-surrender. In yogic philosophy this refers to giving up the fruits of your actions to a higher power, to the universe. For us yogis practicing today it means doing things for the joy of doing them rather than for a specific results. Often having specific goals are linked to our egos, wanting to look a certain way or have a certain amount of money. How often do we get to do something just because we really enjoy doing it? Letting go of ego and expectations and living in the present, doing something for the fun of it, and finding contentment in the here and now.