By Rex Stromness
I think that we are all relieved to be into a new year — 2020 was a challenging one in many ways, for some more than others. As a small business we at Yoga Center of Chico were very much at the effect of the Covid pandemic. We were forced to close our studio to live classes for an extended period and to switch to an entirely new paradigm to survive. Fortunately for us we found that offering on-line classes via Zoom, both live and recorded, was welcomed by our yoga community. They stayed (and are staying) with us and many have reported that they have gotten comfortable with doing yoga on-line, and some say they actually prefer practicing in the comfort of their homes at a time that works best for them. It has also allowed students from outside our area to participate — we now have students from across the country and world tuning in. While we are now offering a limited number of live in-studio classes, we fully intend to say on-line into the future.
One thing I like to do at the beginning of the year is to review the 8 Limbs of Yoga from the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali. These 8 limbs (Ashtanga in Sanskrit) cover the full spectrum of what yoga is and when reviewed and practiced are life enhancing. I’d like to talk briefly about the second limb, the Niyamas, which are considered the internal practices of yoga.
The first is Saucha (purity). This Niyama is about bringing awareness and care to what we eat, drink and breath. Eating pure, locally grown, organic food is a good example. Drinking good water and to whatever degree you can control, breathing pure, clean air is another. But perhaps most important is thinking pure thoughts, something we can control since our thoughts create our reality.
The second Niyama is Santosha (contentment). This one is perhaps the most important — what is more important than cultivating peace of mind and happiness in ourselves and then spreading it to our community of friends and family? This is not necessarily God-given — sometimes we have to rid ourselves of the hindrances to contentment, and this is where the third Niyama comes into play. The third is Tapas (burning will – strong determination). This Niyama is about calling forth the determination it takes to burn away the hindrances that get in the way of us being who we want to be and achieving our goals and aspirations.
The final two Niyamas are Svadhyaya (self study) and Isvara Pranidhana (Devotion). Taking a yoga class is a form of self study. We are studying and getting to know our bodies, minds and spirits. And we all, I feel, need to feel a part of something that is bigger than our individual selves. For many it is some form of God or Spirit. For others it might be nature or the universe. This is devotion.
When practiced, these Niyamas along with the other 7 limbs of yoga: Yamas (moral, ethical code), Asana (physical postures), Pranayama (breathing practices), Pratyahara (withdrawal of senses inward), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation), and Samadhi (Union) help is to live a quality human life. May this new year be one of good health and happiness for all of us.