This week I’ve been discussing Saucha with my classes, which translates as “cleanliness or purity.” Saucha is one of the Niyamas which is one of the eight limbs of Patanjalis eight limbs of yoga. Saucha refers to cleanliness of body, mind, spirit and our surroundings which all help to direct us towards a pure and positive life.
When we think of cleanliness we most often think of external cleanliness. Possibly we think of a clean house, a clean car, or a clean place to practice our asana or movement. However, there is a level of internal cleanliness that we strive for so as to work towards a state of greater happiness, health and awareness in life. We are continually creating habits in our life off the mat and often those habits are carried onto the mat with us. When we bring those negative habits onto the mat with us it makes our practice more challenging and we need to sift through the “impurities” or negativity before we can obtain the rewards of yoga. Our practice is essentially helping us recognize those habits that may not serve us. We are then able to focus more on those habits that serve us so that everything we do helps us move towards a state of happiness, health and awareness.
We are all familiar with the chatter that pops into our mind when we are trying to sit quietly or focus on our breath. All of a sudden we may start thinking about the dirty dishes we left in our sink or the pile of laundry we should have taken care of. We may start focusing on a conversation we had last night or an angry text we received before we came to our mat. There are a number of ways our mind can wander away, and this is completely normal! However, we can help ourselves with this chatter by cleaning things up.
When a clean environment surrounds us we have the ability to now breathe and clear our mind. We are able to refocus our energies and feel free from clutter and debris. Although the possessions we have collected over a number of years may have sentimental value, hanging onto everything may not be beneficial to us. It may cause more damage then the sweet memory may provide. When your home or space is cluttered and messy, our mind is often cluttered and filled with distractions as well. When we come to yoga practice we are meant to be focusing on our breath and if our nostrils are filled by the smell of a stinky space or a sink full of dishes then this doesn’t help us to carry out an ideal yoga practice. So, clean up, de-clutter and make some room to breathe next time you come to your yoga mat.
Next we move on to what we are putting into our bodies. When we eat clean foods we feel better then when we binge on a pint of ice cream or eat potato chips for breakfast. We are honoring the needs of our body by cleaning up our eating act and once again able to refocus our energies on our practice as we aren’t working through stomach pain, bloat, discomfort and a mind focused on our bellies. Make one small and simple change at a time and clean up your food intake!
Cleanliness can also refer to your mat and how you come to your mat. Approaching your practice with cleanliness so that you feel clean inside and out is respectful to the practice and space as well as respectful to yourself. If you feel clean and aren’t distracted by odors or feeling messy you will be better focused on why you came to your mat in the first place. It’s also important to clean your mat, before and after your practice. We put ours right into the washing machine!! Make sure you check on your specific mats cleaning directions but really it’s as easy as that. Next time you come into chaturanga or down dog your nose, and mind, will thank you!
Finally we focus on cleanliness of our thoughts. Perhaps you approach your yoga mat and just aren’t feeling it that day, there may be some block that is hindering our practice however when this happens we start to speak to ourselves in a negative fashion. Maybe we get frustrated and say to ourselves, “come on!! You can do this better, you know how to do this pose!” Or maybe you start telling yourself you can’t do this or you aren’t any good at this so why bother. Have you ever heard the saying, “where attention goes, energy flows”? Well, the more you tell yourself the negative things the more they are going to continue to flow to you. So clean up that mental chatter!! Instead of scolding or yelling at yourself start telling yourself, I’m proud of you for coming to your mat today even though you were tired. Or perhaps saying, I’m going to take a modification for this pose today because it isn’t feeling good right now and I want to go easy on my body. These will start to change the flow of energy and help you to be more focused in other parts of your yoga practice. As we recognize the negative self-talk it’s also important to recognize it when speaking of or to others. The language we use when we speak of someone else or listen about someone else can be in a positive regard, even if you really don’t like someone. No, you don’t have to like everyone just because you are a yogi. However, you can simply say, they aren’t really my style or speed and I choose to focus on other people or things in my life.
The more focus you put on those negatives the more they will play a role in your life so clean up your act and take a spin to the positive!! You will feel much better, inside and out, in the long run.