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  • Writer's pictureElana


In my last post I shared my learnings about the 5 Yamas of yoga, or the set of ethics and ways to treat others. Yoga means union and so it makes sense that in this pathway of yoga, there would also be a set of personal observances or ways to treat yourself. These are called the “Niyamas”.

The 5 Niyamas are:

  1. Saucha (cleanliness, purity)

  2. Santosha (contentment, acceptance)

  3. Tapas (heat / austerity)

  4. Svadhyaya (self-study)

  5. Isvara – Pranidana (surrender to the Divine)

I think we all struggle with taking care of ourselves. When you ask someone how they are doing, what’s their answer? “Busy.” It’s so easy to be busy, that it can be hard to focus on self-care or self-study. It’s so easy to be critical, that it’s hard to be content. Our culture encourages and rewards people who put themselves last. Especially parents and caregivers. Especially mamas.

But, cliché as it sounds, you can’t truly take care of yourself unless you’re taken care of. You are the best friend, sister, brother, mother, father, son, daughter,… when you are your best you.

“Love yourself first, because that’s who you’ll be spending the rest of your life with.” Unknown,

Just like with the Yamas, think deeper than the surface. Saucha can be taking a shower, exercising, deep breathing, healthy eating, and other forms of purity in your body. But it can also mean purity of the mind; doing your best to limit negative thoughts that stem from anger, hate or fear. Tapas can mean literally building heat through physical activity but it can also mean discipline and perseverance.

Tapas is not something I am lacking right now. Life has been super busy preparing a bid for a public art mural and planning a community fundraising event, on top of the usual everyday stuff. With the little guy in daycare only 2 days a week, that hasn’t left me with a lot of time to get these things done. There have been a lot of late nights and productive naptimes over the past few weeks.

I recently celebrated my birthday, and as a special treat took a day off to go into Toronto to see the Chihuly exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM). Chihuly is one of my favourite artists, working with bright colours, glass and being from the Seattle area are some of the reasons why I think he’s so great. I have met him in person (and behaved like a groupie) and visited the Chihuly Museum in Seattle many times. I had been wanting to go see this exhibit for months but haven’t had the time. So for my birthday, that was what I wanted.

While we were at the ROM we decided to also pop in to see the dinosaurs and precious gem exhibits. Walking through that hall of sparkly rocks definitely brightened an already great day, but it was there that I found a little nugget of information that really lit me up.

For anyone who has known me for any length of time, I have probably chiseled into your brain that my birthday is in November. Countdowns, month-long celebrations, I have never shied away from this milestone and have usually been pretty open about my excitement for birthdays. November’s birthstone is Topaz. At this exhibit, there was a display about topaz as a precious gem, or stone, or whatever it is. And there was a little write up about it. Did you know that topaz is not always yellow? In fact it’s clear and can be that amber-yellow colour, or blue, or pink (which really looks purple – why are all of my topaz rings yellow if there is a purple option!?) And did you know that topaz is actually derived from the Sanskrit word “Tapas”? MIND BLOWN! So there you go, tapas is actually tied to me just based on my birth month. It is something I felt like I was lacking for a while, but if Ari’s Halloween costume (which was made in the middle of all of these other projects) is any indication, I’m not lacking it anymore.

Some Fall/Halloween goodies (Ari loves “mumkins”)

A fireman (in his truck), dalmation, “girl on fire”, and fire hydrant

In our Niyamas homework, I expressed how I’m struggling with the concept of bowing to a “Divine” source. In fact, I struggled with observing and practicing all of the Niyamas a lot more than the Yamas. I feel a connection to a greater source when admiring a beautiful sunset, or the changing colours of the leaves, or the first snowfall (today), but I am unsure where I stand in terms of my beliefs on the whole subject. This topic sparked some great discussions and debates with friends and family over the past few weeks. Our YTT (yoga teacher training) teachers have been so helpful in guiding me toward my own definition of what this means for me. Their encouragement that I will find my own definition (of Divine or God or Source) by checking in with my heart and reassurance that it is perfectly normal to question my previous ideas and have patience for this life-long journey have been so comforting. As I said in my previous post, I was prepared to learn about how to teach yoga asana, or postures, but have been so pleasantly surprised by the soul searching that has been involved in YTT as well. One idea that I can get behind though is that God, or Divine, or Source, or Greater Consciousness, or whatever you believe in… it represents love. And with recent world events and hashtags like #lovetrumpshate flying around social media, love is something we could all use a bit more of these days.

As the song goes, “What the world needs now is love sweet love“.

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