Definition - What does Austerity mean?

Austerity refers to a disciplined spiritual practice, or sadhana, that purifies the body and mind of anything that prevents or blocks connection with the higher Self, or God. Austerities are not so much a practice of denying oneself, but of removing obstacles that are preventing the yogi from growing spiritually. The self-denial of austerities, therefore, ultimately enriches the yogi's life.

In Patanjali's eight-limbed path of yoga, austerities are one of the niyamas known as tapas, a word often translated as “austerity” or “discipline.”

Yogapedia explains Austerity

The self-discipline of austerities removes physical, emotional and mental impurities. The Bhagavad Gita mentions three categories of austerities:

  • Physical austerity (of the body), which includes worship, refraining from violence, sexual restraint, honorable behavior and physical purity (e.g., no alcohol or drugs);
  • Austerity of speech, which includes speaking truthfully and kindly, as well as reciting sacred texts; and
  • Mental austerity, which includes maintaining calmness, gentleness and self-restraint, as well as a meditative practice.

The austerities are interconnected. For example, maintaining physical austerity also develops willpower and mental strength, while the calmness of austerity of the mind promotes austerity of speech.

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