In the second of Patanjali’s eight-limbed path of yoga, Saucha is the first “Niyama,” the first of the disciplines. Saucha means cleanliness or purity. The first lim, the Yamas, or “Disciplines,” bring us closer to truth by teaching us moral virtues from the reference point of our relationships with others. The Niyamas on the other hand direct us with understanding that along the way of our yogic journey, the path to enlightenment is our own individual work. Interestingly enough, the concept of saucha must begin with self-love, thus self-care: purity of body, mind and spirit.
In the practice of purification and cleanliness we can find many avenues: asana works to cleanse the body of toxins from the twists and folds, pranayama works to cleanse the body of toxins using breathwork to accompany asana transitions or when done in meditation, and the kriyas like Sun Salutations done with rote memory to quiet the mind while building resilience in the body. Other Kriyas exist in Ayurveda there is detoxification that comes from Sat-karma-kriyas and from pancha karma, which include body massage techniques. All are physical purifications designed to maintain the healthy function of the systems of the body as well as to help rid the body of disease.
In our intention to purify the body, we must become intimate with the parts that we do not like to focus on: Sweat, mucous, bile, … But these are the natural ways that the body rids itself of impurities, so as to maintain ideal function. With healthy function, the mind can focus on the spiritual journey that is the evolution of our lifetime. Saucha shows us that the lotus grows out of the muddy waters, and thus we must give attention to all the murky areas of our mental and spiritual growth. Along the way we learn to not judge, ourselves nor others. Our body is a temple. We must embrace all the parts in effort to set judgment aside. The lotus of our being blooms more radiantly when we accept ourselves, mud and all, and pay attention to the lessons the body hints at. Yoga is a great comprehensive tool. Using all of the limbs of the practice, we arrive at realizing that purity is there all along, all we have to do is uncover what we have masked it with.
How to Practice Saucha:
1. Take care of your body: Eat well, sleep sufficiently, strengthen all the relationships that define healthy movement (exercise, yoga asana).
2. Live, work and sleep in a clean environment. Being organized allows the mind to quiet and decreasing toxic load allows the systems of the body to function effectively, thus not inviting disease.
3. Love who you are – a most unique individual, with a great dharma – enjoy your yogic journey to understand your true calling and then enjoy doing just that, showing the world who you are with your gifts and how you effect positive change.
4. Get out in nature! Breathe fresh air, enjoy aromatherapy!
5. Be present every day to what arrives in front of you – there is a reason and a lesson and it is connected to an opportunity to evolve.
Poses to practice: Inversions and their preparations. They give you a different perspective of the world, sharpen your awareness. Aromatherapy to consider: Rosemary, Thyme, Cilantro, Peppermint, and all the Citrus oils!