Niyamas, denoting disciplines, have to do with the inner self of an individual and are associated unswervingly with the dedicated yoga practitioner. In yoga, there are various aspects of niyamas and they include clarity, happiness, soberness, study and dedication to the Lord.
Incidentally, these days many students coalesces yoga with the anxiety over their food intake and pattern of eating. As a part of their yoga practice, many of them also undergo fasting and cleansing of the body. However, it is imperative that a qualified teacher or yoga practitioner oversees all such activities. During earlier times, conventionally yoga was basically a technique to preserve as well as enhance the physical and mental health, but today yoga is being utilized as a therapy to heal different disorders. People who are endeavoring to prevail over addictions, eating maladies and substance abuse may benefit profusely by practicing yoga postures and the breathing exercises. Students of yoga have asserted that as their yoga practice intensified they have been able to end or decrease maladies like smoking, drinking and over-eating. Hence, it may be assumed that wholesomeness or purity is an outcome of practicing yoga postures.
In yoga, contentment or satisfaction in a dynamic practice that encompasses much more than non-greed. This requires one to develop a mind-set of appreciation, profusion, delight and tranquility in an atmosphere and way of life that is always persisting on the necessity to possess more, purchase more and be more. In this method, an individual cultivates the idea of accepting his body and himself. Acknowledging our drawbacks and being prepared to work with them regularly generates a liberation that enables one to move forward. By practicing these, only one will be able to progress towards health, equilibrium and constancy.
Niyamas in yoga also comprise asceticism or tapas, which literally means heat. According to yogic scriptures, tapas is considered to be a counter-balance to gratification and entails spiritual or psychic heat such as fury and belligerence. Tapas also signifies a burning passion or fervor in an individual.
Each posture in yoga offers an individual the opportunity to balance his practice. For instance, if one practices the asanas less, he is not at his utmost, and if he does more of it, he his coercing himself. To locate and settle on the rim is the halfway path that helps us to strike a sense of balance as well as continue with satisfaction and contest, self-recognition and development. Yoga scriptures say that every one requires locating his equilibrium of inert submission and vigorous practice to facilitate the amalgamation of these two extremes to emerge tough without endeavor and energetic without force.
Yoga says that learning the sacred scriptures not only helps in attaining intellectual knowledge, but is also a source or way for personal contemplation as well as spiritual development. It further states that any kind of motivating reading is able to take care of one's spirit and act against all the imagery and communication of aggression that environs him.
On the other hand, devotion to the Lord is conventionally practiced by praying and reciting mantras or sacred hymns. It is significant to note that even without having any recognized devotional practice, one is able to take out some time of his daily schedule to express his gratitude to the Lord for all the gifts He has bestowed on his life.
In simple terms, asanas means or refers to the different kinds of yoga positions. Going by Yoga Sutras, asanas also means the place where the yogi or the yoga practitioner sits as well as the style he sits there. It is important to mention here that all the postures in yoga need an obvious, cognizant alertness of contact with our body and the ground or the Mother Earth. The meaning of the term asana also includes such contact between the body and the ground.
Going by the definitions of Patanjali in Yoga Sutras, the asanas or yoga postures may be both - rigid or firm and relaxed or comfortable. Whatever be the condition of the asanas, it is obtainable through lessening of endeavor or through the mental status of balance. However, many believe the fact that the firmness and steadiness of the yoga posture or asanas may be obtained through relaxation of endeavor. Hence, it is essential that we be trained how to distinguish potency and constancy without effort and anxiety.
Incidentally, meditation on Ananta also enables one to accomplish controls over the yoga postures. The Hindu mythology says that Ananta is the Chief of Serpents that supports the globe of the Mother Earth and helps it to remain in an orbit around the sun. Incidentally, Ananta is a figurative depiction of the gravitational force. In the process of enduring to concentrate on this gravitational force, we eventually bring ourselves in a configuration or alignment with it. Significantly, a blend of association with as well as giving up to the gravitational force provides us the constancy and effortlessness that is mentioned in the Yoga Sutras.
As mentioned earlier, 'pranayama' or the exercise of breathing helps us to control and complement the inhalation as well as its cadence. In fact, prana or energy or life is controlled and stabilized through the breathing practices known as pranayama in yoga. In his classic text titled 'Light on Yoga', we can find that, "Prana is the breath of life of all beings in the universe. They are born through and live by it, and when they die their individual breath dissolves into the cosmic breath." Incidentally, asanas and pranayama are closely related and whenever we practice yoga, we integrate the alertness of the inhaling into our practice of yoga postures.
The final stages of yogic practice comprise 'pratyahara' or the removal of the mind from the external world, 'dharana' or attention, 'dhyana' or reflection that may also be described as assimilation or contemplation and 'samadhi', also known as blissful unification and collectively all these processes are known as meditation. Like the term yoga, the word meditation is related to the objective of blissful unification of the spirit and the universe. It may be noted here that there is not one, but various ways or practices through which one may achieve this aspiration. Generally speaking, one may term meditation as concentrating one's attention.
Concentration as well as controlling breathing are the most important aspects of most yogic meditation practices and this is the reason why pranayama is crucial form of meditation. Procedures or systems of meditations differ as far as the purpose or the focus is concerned. Incidentally, while the Indian yogic beliefs and practices traveled East via Tibet, China, Southeast Asia and Japan the yogic teachings and practice methods underwent transformation as they came in contact with different cultures of the region. The Vipasana or 'Insight Meditation' in yoga, where one monitors the content of the mind, is an example of this transformation. Like Vipasana, the Zen practice also comprises attention on crucial questions or 'koans'. Questions include like the prominent "What is the sound of clapping with one hand?" Similarly, Mantra meditation exercises sound or recitation of sacred phrases as concentration or focus. While the best known form of Mantra meditation is transcendental meditation, there are many other types of meditations that utilize mental picture of divine beings, i.e. mandalas or yantras, usually made of geometric forms. Even the Chi Kung as well as the Tibetan meditation practices also envisages movement of energy through the body.
Although yoga originated in ancient India and traveled to the East where it underwent transformations as it encountered the local cultures, presently these forms of meditation and practices are in the procedure of further alteration and assimilation into our culture. Hence, unlike in the past, today there are several kinds of meditation practices to choose from. Although they may be in different forms, all these meditation exercises are systems that are aimed at calming down the mind and enhancing concentration or focusing awareness. The diversity or assortment of meditation practices, methods and groups enables one to select the one that he feels is best suited for him. Hence, before choosing any of the meditation forms or techniques one must be sure that both the method as well as the teacher is right for him.