The Discipline of Mental Clarity

Written by | Yoga, Yoga-Sutra

The disciplines of Niyama include purity (Saucha), contentment (Santosha), zeal in practice (Tapas), self-study (Svadhyaya), and surrendering to the divine (Ishvara Pranidhana).

YS II.32

Have you ever met anyone who is patient with others but not with themself? Do you know anyone who shows a great deal of appreciation for others but very little for themself? With the Yamas, Patanjali emphasizes harmonious relationships between people as the starting point for improving well-being. From here we must improve our self-appreciation and have enough self-esteem and trust in ourselves to believe in our potential and successfully proceed on the path of yoga.

Purity and contentment

This work begins by seeking the purity of Saucha: looking to have the purest possible lifestyle, food, activities and relationships, and only letting in the things that help us grow on the path of yoga while distancing ourselves from impurities and obstacles. Those seeking purity surround themselves with people who are in harmony with their values and conditions for happiness.

Be careful, however, to practice contentment (Santosha) without slipping into excess, rather than appreciating the abundance we already possess. We tend to look for happiness outside ourselves, forgetting the abundance that exists within. We must let go of this desire to shop around. This attitude merely leads us to constantly pursue the things we lack. We must accept who we are and trust in our own uniqueness.

Actions, study and humility

Our ability to take action and make necessary changes (Tapas) is what stimulates the purification processes through our posture and our breath. The self-study and self-knowledge of Svadhyaya refer to our introspection that guides us in doing the right thing (otherwise we need to realign our strategy). The last Niyama, Ishvara Pranidhana, refers to the surrender necessary when our tireless efforts (Tapas) and understanding of ourselves (Svadhyaya) prove unsuccessful. In practicing Ishvara Pranidhana, yogis free themselves from the need for success, as they understand that appreciating each moment is more important than achieving the objective.

Personal experience: Our Niyamas reach their greatest potential when we face hardships and challenging situations in our lives.

Krishnamacharya had said that Dukha is what reveals our full potential. The more trying the ordeal, the more motivated we are to make it through, and the more diligent we become in our yoga practice. The particular Niyamas that we practice in order to overcome our ordeals are Tapas, having the energy to look for a solution; Svadhyaya, the insight to practice yoga in an intelligent way; and Ishvara Pranidhana, the amount of surrender necessary to refrain from obsessing over results. Krishnamcharya maintained that Dukha is the stepping stone to expressing the Niyamas, having once said: “My most loyal students are those who have suffered the most.” We can easily draw parallels with our own lives.

Yoga is the discipline of a clear mind and peaceful soul. If you feel as though you’re racing around and not showing yourself enough respect, then you can learn from the Niyamas. This is Patanjali’s message.


Daniel Pineault – Studied yoga in India with the Desikachar family. Recognized by the Fédération Francophone de Yoga, and honorary instructor for the CTY, Daniel specializes in teaching the Yoga Sutras, Pranayama, meditation and Sanskrit chanting. He provides personal consultations. (Saint-Hyacinthe).

Last modified: October 29, 2018