Internal Housekeeping: Part Two

In Part 1 we explored how dysfunctional ways of thinking and perceiving contribute to the development of toxins (ama) on both a physical and subtle level, distorting our perception of the world much like dirt distorts the view out of a window.

If the toxins continue to accumulate over long periods of time, Ayurveda teaches us that they crystalize on the gross physical level of our being, blocking passages for neural communication and for the transport of nutrients throughout the body.

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, specifically the yamas and niyamas, have provided clear and beautiful solutions on how to cleanse the dirt and rewire the mind. We previously reviewed the yamas, using them to begin the cleansing process by digging out deep rooted belief systems and ways of thinking—replacing them with more beneficial ways of viewing ourselves and the world.

In Part 1 we reviewed the yamas, using them to help us view ourselves and the world. Let us now explore the niyamas—the personal practices that help maintain a clear window— preventing us from falling back into old habitual patterns.

  1. Saucha. Saucha, or purity, is about living life in a way that facilitates harmony and builds positivity within ourselves and our environment. In addition to the food we eat, we are constantly ingesting thoughts, sights, and words, all of which become the substance of our bodies and minds. Saucha is about consciously choosing what we take in and what we don’t, such that our being becomes more aligned with our true Self.
  2. Santosha. Translated as contentment, santosha is about being completely present in the moment, rather than preoccupied with the past or anticipating the future. This presence facilitates a sense of freedom—the ability to surrender to what is and what the universe brings to us.

    We are part of a larger masterpiece, mere instruments in a much bigger design. It is always important to put forth effort and have intentions, but it is equally important to surrender the fruits of our labor and not get too attached to our expectations.
  3. Tapas. The idea of tapas in the Yoga Sutras is talked of as self-discipline. In Sanskrit, it also means fire, as fire is the facilitator of any transformation—a teaching we are well aware of in Ayurveda.

    The repetition of activities that nourish the soul ingrain the same qualities within the person. These activities—such as meditating, yoga, and studying scriptures—keep the sense perceptions clear and create more harmony between thought and action.
  4. Svadhyaya. Any spiritual transformation requires self-reflection and self-study, or svadhyaya. Without looking internally, all knowledge is just knowledge. But knowledge combined with personal experience turns into wisdom and insight. It is this integrated wisdom and insight that transforms old belief systems into new ones, rewiring the mind’s internal circuitry.
  5. Ishvara pranidhana. Ishvara pranidhana is about faith, devotion, and surrendering completely to something greater than ourselves. When we rely solely on our own ego, we are bound by the constraints of the mind, which are influenced by our old belief systems.

    By shifting our faith to a sense of divine perfection, we open to the greater harmony of the universe and become more available to the wisdom that is constantly revealing itself to us. This is the ultimate form of transformation.

In Part 1 we discussed tools related to the yamas—setting intention, meditation, cleansing, and journaling—as a way to support your client’s cleansing process. Once the window of perception has been cleared with these tools, you can use the niyamas to help your clients maintain that clear window.

Remember that ultimately the niyamas boil down to being conscious of what we ingest, practicing presence, putting in strong effort and discipline, making time for self-reflection, and surrendering. Consider using the following tools alongside the niyamas in your practice:

  • Set a daily routine. An Ayurvedic daily routine, or dinacharya, is a way to begin each day in alignment with one’s true Self, setting the stage of saucha through the practice of tapas. Start by choosing just a few practices to recommend to your clients and add more when they are ready. Having purity externally feeds internal purity and vice versa.
  • Meditate daily. This was an important part of the cleansing process, and also supports continued self-maintenance by removing any dirt that may surface as the subconscious clears. It also facilitates the ability to be present in the now. Suggest Nadi ShodhanaEmpty Bowl Meditation, or any other meditative practice that you may be familiar with.
  • Do pranayama (breathing exercises). In Ayurveda, the breath is considered the connection between the mind and body. By doing breathing exercises, we bring harmony, order, and rhythm to the breath. This in turn brings harmony, order, and rhythm to the mind. If your client is just beginning, Nadi Shodhana or Bhramari are good starter exercises.
  • Practice self-massage. Self-massage, or abhyanga, can be built into your client’s daily routine and is particularly powerful in that it nourishes both the physical and the subtle realms. The word for oil is sneha, which also translates as love. The practice of abhyanga therefore nurtures a quality of love and contentment, the niyama of santosha.
  • Practice gratitude. It is easy to become disheartened when the mind is occupied with the past or future. Being present and remembering to recognize things that one is grateful for in the moment is an immensely powerful practice. Suggest that your client end each day by naming or writing down three things that they are grateful for from that day.
  • Eat wisely. Ayurveda teaches us that what we eat has an immense impact on our body, which is why a fresh, healthy, constitutionally-appropriate diet is a core feature of Ayurveda. The qualities of the foods we ingest transform the qualities of the body, as does the energy with which the food is made.

    Explore Banyan Botanicals' webpage on diet, which has many articles and resourceful pieces of information that you can offer your clients.