So you want to increase your health and wellness? In my practice, I have found that getting back to the basics is the best place to get real transformation. Patajali’s Raja Yoga practices of Niyama, or positive guidelines, are a great way to fuel your mind to prepare for larger changes such as change in diet and Ayurvedic practices.
The Niyamas are purity (shaucha), contentment (santosha), discipline (tapas), self-study (svadhyaya), surrender (isvara pranidhana). These guidelines are pivotal to reaching our health goals.
Purity can be in word, thought and deed. Anything that cleanses our mind, our space and our speech is beneficial for health. This is where clean eating comes in. Our mind and our bodies are made up of the impressions we take in. If we take in clean, sattvic food, we will have clean thoughts and a healthy body. If we take in processed, old foods, we will have ignorance cloud our mind and create disease in the body.
Contentment brings peace internally with where we are. It is from this place that we can accept our circumstances. We accept our mind and its thoughts, even if they aren’t peaceful. We accept our body and the work it does to carry us through this experience of life. We accept the circumstances we are in. Knowing that we are exactly where we are supposed to be to learn the lessons we need to learn is a very beneficial though pattern to maintain in order to practice contentment.
Discipline is necessary for any goal in life. If we want to become a star athlete, discipline is necessary. If we want to reach the highest ranks in our company, discipline is necessary. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that discipline is necessary for us to reach our highest health potential. Sticking to pure foods, pure thoughts, and daily meditation practices to ignite our will-power is a highly constructive form of tapas.
Self-study is self-awareness. It is helpful to study the yoga scriptures such as the Bhagavad Gita, Yoga Vasistha and the Yoga Sutras. These texts remind us of what this journey through life is all about. Studying our habits, or mental programs and our desires, we can escape their grip and rise above. True change, whether for physical, mental or spiritual health can only take place after we understand our nature.
Surrender is the most delightful of all practices. It is letting go of the need of control. When we can experience grace through surrender, you come to realize that all is coming and all is here now. It is up to us to move our mind program out of the way. There is a delicate balance between self-effort and surrender. This balance is to be found through self-analysis. When that balance is found, you will see obstacles become non-existent, or merely stepping stones to help along the path. Yoga and Ayurveda are complementary practices. It is beneficial to understand yogic philosophy when beginning adapt an Ayurvedic lifestyle. These practices are essentially accepted in all religious organizations. Perhaps the texts are different, but the idea is the same.
To experience well-being, peace, bliss, whatever you may call it, is to be in harmony with ourselves.
Om Namah Sivaya