Over the past year we have been dipping in and out of yogic philosophy. Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga, to be precise. The Eight Limbs of Yoga is an eight-fold path to achieving yoga.
First on this path is our very own code of ethics and morals, the yamas, which refer to the attitude we hold towards things and people outside of ourselves, our sense of integrity and how we behave in life.
The niyama’s extend the ethical ‘codes of conduct’ of the yama’s to our own internal environment. Practicing the niyama’s can help us to grow positively through self-discipline and inner strength.
The first of the five niyama’s is saucha which refers to the purification of the body (both internally and externally) as well as the mind.
Quite literally, saucha translates to cleanliness of the body, mind, spirit and our environment contributing towards a more positive way of being.
At its most basic level, it is important to wash regularly and eat nutritious, healthy foods while living in a clutter-free environment. However, the idea of saucha can also extend into our actions and the intention behind them.
Saucha on the Mat
As mentioned before and really, it’s simple common sense that frequent showers are an important part of life! Arriving clean to your yoga class shows awareness and respect for those around you.
Similarly, managing your belongings or yoga props to keep the space clear for your teacher to walk around the room or out of the way of those around you in the class is another way of practicing saucha.
When it comes to the internal workings of our physical bodies, we often hear that yoga is detoxifying.
While it is true that some yoga practices can support our body’s natural detoxification process, it is sometimes misconstrued as being a detoxifying practice.
Moving away from this idea, yoga can bring an awareness of how a certain diet or lifestyle can affect our bodies and our minds and thus spur us on to make better choices when it comes to nutrition and habits.
Furthermore, practicing saucha on the mat can relate to de-cluttering our minds and freeing ourselves of judgement and assumptions.
For example, being OK with the fact that you’re not as flexible as ‘Stretchy Suzie’ in the lycra unitard. Arriving to the mat free from attachments to a certain ‘ideal’ can be quite liberating.
When we move through our practice free from expectations, it becomes a lot more enjoyable and we become a lot more present and this, in turn, leads us to bring this concept into our day to day lives.
Saucha off the Mat
We can then bring the practice of saucha ‘off the mat’ and into our daily lives. Beginning with food and nutrition, we are all aware of the difference a clean, healthy diet can add to your sense of well being both physically and mentally.
Moving on to your living space, you’ll probably agree that when your home or surroundings are free from clutter, you experience a sense of space where you can breathe freely. Not to mention your calendar. How many events or projects do we jam into our schedule?
Bringing that concept into your mind and, more to the point, your thoughts - the busy ‘always on’ lives we lead, leave very little room in our brains for clarity and creativity.
Similarly, the content we choose to consciously put into our minds can have a detrimental effect to our productivity and sense of well being.
I mean, how mentally stimulating are videos of cute cats in fairness?
As the practice of yoga and meditation can provide us with the tools to become more ‘present’ and ‘in the moment’, we have the chance to almost sit back and watch our thoughts.
From there we have the power to maybe tweak those thoughts to be more positive or constructive, less judgmental of ourselves and others or even go so far as to literally ‘de-clutter’ our minds of the debris from the past or repetitive thoughts churning around in our brains to make room for more productive and creative ideas.
The important thing to remember about saucha and, indeed the yamas and the niyamas from Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga is that these are more like guidelines rather than rigid rules.
In essence, when we neglect to look after ourselves and our surroundings, we have a natural tendency to feel bad about ourselves and our place in the world. We then project that into society with our behaviour and relationships with other people, places, and things.
Being aware of how these elements can take us away from a sense of wellbeing, we have the capacity to make better choices, should we so wish.
So how about getting a little saucha into your practice…?