Patanjali, considered to be the “Father Of Yoga” teaches the “Yamas & Niyamas” as the first two limbs of yoga’s eight limbed path in The “Yoga Sutras.” The “Yamas” are taught as yogic practices that we observe towards others. The “Niyamas” are taught as yogic practices that we observe towards our self.
The first Niyama is saucha, which is taught as – cleanliness – of the body, heart, mind and environment. Saucha/Cleanliness is taught as both inner and outer practices. The outer practice of cleanliness includes keeping our bodies clean with exercise and clean foods.
The inner practice of cleanliness has to do with the clarity of our mind. This includes keeping our mind “clean and clear” by limiting exposure to negative thinking patterns, information and influences. Saucha is cleansing the mind of challenging emotions such as jealousy, hatred, passion, anger, pride and greed. Practicing Saucha, we are honest, open and clear in our thoughts, intentions, & actions.
Suggestions for practicing Saucha as part of our daily yoga practice include the following:
For the body:
- Incorporating pure, unprocessed, fresh, organic foods in the diet – vegetables, fruits and grains cleanse and detoxify the digestive system.
- Reducing products such as perfumes, lotions, anti – perspirants, and colognes made with chemicals. The skin is the largest organ of the body, and these chemicals make their way into our bloodstream. Try oils for the skin instead, including sesame and coconut oil for moisture, and essential oils for fragrance.
- Cleaning the living and work areas of clutter
For the mind:
- View mental “inputs” – such as television, words from another person, readings, etc as “food” and notice what you take in through the eyes and ears. How do these influences of information, conversation, and images make you feel? Be selective in what type of “mental” food you allow yourself to take in each day, choosing positive, healthy inputs.
- Try compassionately letting go of some toxic people/relationships in your life.
Suggested Contemplation Exercises for Meditation:
- What are some of my habits that could benefit from the practice of Saucha? How can I overcome these habits?
- What are the common patterns in my home, workplace, car etc that can be improved upon?
- What repetitive thought patterns do I have about myself or others that may be negative or impure? How can I incorporate cleanliness in my thought patterns so that I may “flip it” and include positive, heathy thoughts about all?
Suggested Asana – Postures for Saucha:
All Twisting Poses help to cleanse and detoxify the digestive, urinary and circulatory systems. The following postures may be included in your daily yoga practice:
- Revolved Triangle
- Revolved Side Angle
- Revolved Squat
- Revolved Half Moon
- Revolved Seated Twist
- Revolved Half Pigeon
- Revolved Supine Twist
Suggested Pranayama – Breathing techniques for Cleansing:
- Kapalabhati – Breath of Fire: Cleanses sinuses and stimulates digestive system (agni)
Affirmation for Saucha, can be helpful to repeat daily:
My body is clean and pure, I eat consciously.
My heart is pure, open, and loving.
My mind is calm, thinking positive thoughts about myself and others.
– Kristin Cooper – Gulak