The Yamas and Niyamas are the first two of the 8 limbs of Astanga Yoga. The Yamas are the “Restraints,” or “Ethical Principles” and define living with integrity in our relationships with our world. The Niyamas are the “Disciplines,” and define our relationship with our true self as we evolve along life’s journey.
Saucha is the first Niyama, and translated from Sanskrit, means “purity” or “cleanliness.” This applies to purity of mind, body and spirit. We can apply saucha in many aspects of our yoga practice. Initially, we can take the meaning literally, as saucha directs us to create order, to be clean and tidy, and to declutter/simplify our lives physically. If we live simply, we can minimize distractions and focus on being present, think with clarity, and begin to understand what is in front of us. Physically we can use our asana and pranayama practices to detoxify the body, we can take direction from Ayurveda to eat and sleep and massage with herbs and oils, and use aromatherapy to align with our constitution for the sake of wellness practices. We can purify the mind with meditation, directed focus and self-study. We can refine our spiritual practice with study of scriptures and intention of devotion to our higher power.
However, once we begin to deepen our practices, the ultimate path to enlightenment, to Samadhi, is one we journey alone. In order to succeed, the underlying work is to begin with self-love. This means embracing the parts of our self that we find messy. Examine the parts of yourself that you might not like, and see them for what they are: clues to the “stuck places.” Herein lies a great opportunity to learn what your body, mind and spirit have to teach you.
In this spring time of year, when we reexamine the season that reminds us of renewal, here are a few suggestion on how to embrace life’s challenges from the perspective of Saucha. Recognize that in order to make forward progress we must accept, without judgment that we are all equally holy, that all of life is sacred, and that our true essence is pure.
1. Start by taking care of the body. Practice twisting poses to detoxify the organs and release tension along the spine and back body.
2. Love every part of you!
3. Be present, build awareness. Suggestion: use aromatherapy to stay focused using essential oils like rosemary as it supports cognition.
4. Use setting intentions to grow and cultivate new healthy habits.
5. Use this Niyama literally: keep a clean and tidy home and work environment.
6. Use essential oils to create pure cleaning agents. Example: a spray bottle with 3 parts water, 1 part vinegar, and 6 to 10 drops of tea tree oil, pine essential oil, or any citrus oil (antiviral agent) will be effective and refreshing.
7. Use mudras in your yoga practice, both in asana and in meditation, they affect the energy body. Example: Lotus mudra is a reminder that a beautiful flower emerges from the muddy waters. Place a drop of an essential oil that is refreshing like peppermint or lemon, in your hands in this mudra, and use as a personal diffuser.
8. Don’t judge or chastise yourself for non-yogic behaviors or deterred steps. We are all only human and the object is to learn and to evolve.
9. Love who you are and let the spark of divinity within you shine. It is only then that the true, pure part of you can lead you forward.
10. Be patient with yourself. All aspects of yoga practice require patience.
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