32. Cleanliness, contentment, religious zeal, self-study and surrender of the self to the supreme Self or God are the niyamas.
In this section of the Yoga Sutras, Patajali focuses on the eight limbs (or angas) of classical yoga in turn. This sutra presents the second limb, the five niyamas.
As we noted last month, the eight limbs move progressively from external to internal. The five yamas of the first limb are the most outward focused and address the ethical practices needed to live in a community and social context. The five niyamas of the second limb then move to the level of the personal disciplines or practices to be cultivated on the yogic path.
Commentators note that “cleanliness” or sauca applies both to the external body as well as to the mind – moving from the external to internal once again. Have a look at the other niyamas as they apply to your practice and life. Do they all encourage this turning from external to internal in some way?
B.K.S. Iyengar stated in his commentary on this sutra that “Mastery of yoga would be unrealizable without the observance of the ethical principles of yama and niyama.” In particular, the niyamas encourage the self-care, equanimity, reflection and self-examination necessary to deepen one’s studies and practice.