Yoga for Midwives Blog - The Niyamas: the Yogis’ Code of Ethics – Part II

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Welcome back to the yoga blog for Midwives!

Picking things up where we left them last month, in the first blog about the Yogis’ Code of Ethics, I will discuss another five values that you can incorporate into your practice, if not your daily life.


To refresh your memory, the Eight Limbs are the general structure we are looking at. 

In the last blog we discussed the Yamas. Remembering that Yoga is more than the physical practice of yoga postures and breathing exercises, it is it is in fact a life’s philosophy, we’ll dive into the Niyamas.


The Niyamas are five internal observances or duties. Whereas the Yamas are set in a context of social interaction, the Niyamas are really inner guidelines. The Yamas are also phrased as “don’t’s” whilst the Niyamas are the “do’s”. 

Saucha ~ cleanliness: More than just physical hygiene which, let’s be honest, is sort of a basic expression of self-respect and worthiness, saucha is also about clean habits, clean words, clean thoughts and clean intentions. Through the practice of saucha, we purify the body and the mind. 

Santosha ~ contentment: My personal favourite, not only because the word simply sounds so beautiful, but also because of its meaning. Santosha is about accepting the present and being content about it. Far from meaning we should become fatalistic and passive about what is, Santosha asks us to not envy things that we don’t have, nor to live in the past. If our current situation is not a favourable one, being content does not mean we lay back and hope for the best. Instead, we acknowledge our situation, appreciate the positive side of things, think about what we can do to change it, recognise that we have the opportunity to change things and act by moving forwards with optimism and faith. And most importantly, without being attached to the final result itself.

Tapas ~ discipline: In the traditional practice of yoga, tapas led to an extreme form of asceticism, represented by those yogis living the forest without any possession bar perhaps a cloth around their waste, on a diet that consisted of practically nothing and practicing a rigorous regime of meditation and pranayama. But even in today’s setting, we all know that will-power and discipline can get us further than we sometimes think possible. By combining ambition, focus, dedication and effort, that inner fire called Tapas drives us to action and energises us to accomplish progress.

Svadhyaya ~ self-study: Svadhyaya reminds us that we are eternal students. We owe it to ourselves to study ourselves, to discover our true Self. In yoga, this can be done through the studying of sacred texts but in a broader sense, we can study whatever fascinates us and brings us closer to understanding ourselves. We need to remind ourselves here that this is not about being able to display an encyclopaedic knowledge to impress others, nor to convince others that we are right and they are wrong. Honest and pure development of our self-knowledge is the aim of Svadhyaya.

Isvhara Pranidhana ~ surrender to a higher power: When all is said and done, regardless how much Tapas, Santosha or any of the other Yamas and Niyamas we practice in life, we quite simply need to acknowledge that there is a higher power. Because only when we recognise that there is a higher power, of which we are all part of, can we connect to it. Our true self, our true consciousness taps into that universal energy. When we surrender to it, inner peace and abundance become an integral part of our life.


How can we apply the Niyamas in daily life? 

To make the Niyamas more tangible and let things come to life for you, we can use an illustrative example that you might be familiar with; imagine you are a woman who tries to keep up her yoga practice during pregnancy.

Starting with Saucha which covers the self-care basics. Eating healthy, not drinking alcohol, sleeping enough, staying away from infectious place or people, just to name a few. It is also important to arrive clean on the mat, shower before and after practice, keep your mat clean, keep the environment where you practice clean and organised. Cleanliness of the body promotes cleanliness of the mind. Thinking negative and nasty thoughts or arguing with others sends bad vibes through your body, which are most certainly picked up by your baby. Saucha keeps you and your baby pure.

Next up, is Santosha. As you grow more and more pregnant, your body shape changes. Your yoga practice needs to change accordingly. Some postures are not accessible for you anymore. You may need a rest from the more rigourous and dynamic practices for a while. Listen to your body and to the little one inside of you, be content with what you can do and know that the respectful efforts that you make are always rewarded. Be honoured and awed by the experience you are living of creating another human being.

But don’t become complacent nor lazy. Tapas is there to remind you that discipline will keep you on track, will keep you healthy, strong and confident. Get on that mat, maybe not every day for a full-on practice, but aim to achieve the same physical and mental bliss that you feel after a practice by adapting yet persisting. Everything you do, every moment you spend on that mat, whether it’s a slow restorative practice or doing a meditation, will prepare you for the physical challenge to come of delivering a healthy baby and being a fit mum.

Svadhyaya prepares you for motherhood. Be honest with yourself. What kind of a mother do you want to be? How do you want to raise your children? What can you do to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally? Read up on books, speak with those whose attitude in life and towards their children you respect, consult experts. 

And then finally, Ishvara Pranidhana. Surrender to God, to Allah, to the Universe, to the Conscious Energy or whatever you want to call it. Trust that whether you turn left or right, in the larger scheme of things, the positive and the negative always have to balance. You and your baby are right where you are supposed to be. Know that if you have tried your best, you have done all you can. Live with faith and pass on that faith to your precious little one.


Tip of the day

If you enjoyed reading about the Yamas and the Niyamas and would like to study these yogic values more in-depth, I can highly recommend the book written by Deborah Adele, The Yamas & Niyamas ~"Exploring Yogi’s Ethical Practice". It’s a small book, that reads very easily, with lots of practical examples and wonderful insights. It’s considered one of the most accessible books on the topic. Put it by your bedside and read one chapter at the time, letting it sink in and savouring the beauty of her contemplations.


More about Yaisa

Yaisa is an ex-banker and ex-scuba diving instructor. She now spends her time between Bali, Europe and South Australia teaching yoga and working as a health coach and appropriately named her business Yoga Here & There. Since 2016 she is also a yoga teacher trainer and every day, she is amazed at how much more there is to learn about yoga. She is happy to (try and) answer any questions you may have.

Phone: +61 455107533 (only WhatsApp when overseas)



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