The niyamas are the second limb of the eightfold path (translated to Ashtanga) outlined in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra.
Each limb serves as the guidelines of living an authentic and purposeful life.
The first limb, yama, refers to the practices that address one’s integrity and ethics. The second limb, niyama, ties us to the spiritual and self-discipline. Like the yamas, there are five niyamas – each one examines an element of developing spiritual practices of meaning and developing a devout and disciplined lifestyle.
Here is a short yoga teacher's guide to these principles.
The Five Niyamas
- Saucha (Cleanliness)
- Santosha (Contentment)
- Tapas (Heat)
- Svādhyāya (Self-study)
- Ishvara (Surrender to Higher Power)
Like the yamas, we can apply the lessons and guidelines of the niyamas to both our teachings and business practices as private yoga teachers. Specifically, we can use the intentions behind each niyama as a starting point for outlining our interpretation and also as a road map to navigate meaningful private yoga lessons and sound business practices.
I hear a lot through my mentorship and course on 'The Art Of Teaching Private Yoga' that a dialogue arises especially when offering higher value and financial offerings like private yoga sessions–that there is an added layer of ethical questions to navigate. The yamas and niyamas allow us to follow the eightfold path while being modern yogis.
1. Saucha (Cleanliness)
Saucha extends into our mental health and pure state of being as private yoga teachers. Having mental health and wellness catapults our ability to make impact with our clients and ties us closely to saucha.
Having pure intentions as a private yoga teacher and yoga business person honors the observance of saucha. Although our intentions vary and can be many, having clean intentions to help others should guide our way.
2. Santosha (Contentment)
As teachers and entrepreneurs, we need to seek joy, growth, and bliss. All honor our commitment to contentment (or santosha). Like all of the yamas and niyamas, this quest is embodied both on the teaching side and on the business side of yoga.
Occupying our zone, sweet spot, or state of flow (a psychological experience Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi demonstrates as being one of the most rewarding human experiences) allows us to seek and achieve santosha. We find flow and santosha as private yoga teachers by fulfilling our dharma and doing our life’s work.
3. Tapas (Heat)
Finding motivation to do our best, challenge our self-imposed (or industry) status quo, and continue to pave the way towards our most pure form of teaching and running a business takes tapas (and guts!). We embody heat in this quest by developing our motivation and…
Channeling our willpower, strength, and heating qualities. Tapas requires us to stay connected to the difficulties while being tapped into our intention as teachers and as business people.
4. Svādhyāya (Self-study)
A cornerstone of every yoga teacher’s success and development is self-study, personal practice, and investment in continuing education. Honoring these essential parts of our being and growth is a nod to Svādhyāya.
Being a private yoga teacher means honoring the teaching side of working one-on-one with clients and also respecting the business side of running a mindful and sustainable private yoga teacher practice. The principle of self-study requires us to get to know our shadow side, whether it be in teaching or in business, and to work on developing it towards balance (like ha and tha).
5. Ishvara (Surrender to Higher Power)
As private yoga teachers, we adopt our profession by committing to a purpose of sharing the benefits of yoga and the message of higher being with our clients and community. Incorporating this fundamental philosophy into our teaching and business is the practice of ishvara.
Encountering the ego is a common practice for yoga teachers, as they are often held to a untouchable or ‘special’ standard by inspired and adoring clients or students. Softening the ego and surrendering to one’s own ego is the practice of ishvara.
The eight-limb path isn’t meant to be a short cut. It is a map with a built-in compass and some pre-planned pit-stops on the way to your truest self. Continue to incorporate the practice of honoring and adhering to the yamas and niyamas in your private yoga teaching and business.