Column: Guidelines for a meaningful life


Commentary by Dr. Sally Brown Bassett

Editor’s note: This is the second in an eight part series on the Limbs of Yoga.

There are eight limbs of yoga that act as guidelines on how to live a meaningful and purposeful life. Among the eight limbs is the Niyamas, or individual practices, which is the second limb and consists of the five following principles:

Cleanliness (Saucha)

Saucha, or cleanliness/purity, involves maintaining a cleanliness in body, mind and environment. When we eat healthy foods, the body starts to function more smoothly. When we read books that elevate our consciousness, see movies that inspire and associate with kind people, we are feeding the mind in a way that nourishes our own peacefulness. When we create a home environment that is cozy but simple, we are not constantly distracted by the things that surround us.

Contentment (Santosha)

Santosha, or contentment, is the ability to feel satisfied within the present moment. It is a sign that that we are at peace with whatever stage of growth we are in and the circumstances we find ourselves in. We accept what is with openness and gratitude. We remain calm and open with success or failure, praise or blame.

Burning Desire (Tapas)

Tapas, or burning desire, is a willingness to do what is necessary to reach a goal. When we generate an attitude of burning passion or enthusiasm towards something, the strength of our convictions generates a momentum that carries us forward. When this energy is strong, it is a practice that causes change.

Self-Study (Swadhyaya)

Swadhyaya, or self-study, means self-reflection in order to truly learn about ourselves. While it frequently uncovers our strengths, it also relentlessly uncovers our weaknesses and negative tendencies. At these times, it is important to appreciate what we are good at as well as welcome and accept our limitations. It is only through self-study that we can grow and mature as individuals.

Surrender to God (Ishvara-Pranidhana)

Ishwara-Pranidhana, or surrender to God, is the practice of surrendering to God’s will as one’s own will. When we dedicate ourselves to the divine, we become divine.

Understanding the eight limbs of yoga is vital to the practice and study of yoga. Imagine the eight limbs as the arms and legs of a body. Each limb is connected to one another through the central body of yoga, and whatever limb of practice we focus upon inevitably causes the others limbs to grow stronger as well.


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