I wrote a post a little while back about the eight limbs of yoga: the yamas, niyamas, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, and dhyana. Eventually I will get around to writing more about these. Although at my current pace of blogging (slow), you may all need to show some real patience. Skipping over the first limb for now (I’ll circle back to these). I chose to focus first on the niyamas. The niyamas are observances of ourselves, tuning into how we relate to ourselves in order to live more skillfully.
The first niyama is saucha, or cleanliness. Saucha is a personal fav as I tend to be a person who craves cleanliness and order by nature. Whether I’m going to relax and watch a movie or need to focus on a specific task, I need my surroundings to be clean. Saucha includes the cleanliness of your mind, body, and environment.
Saucha of the environment, to me, is the most straightforward of the three. Cleanliness of environment applies to your home, your practice space, your work space, car, etc. Any place where you are spending time. Create order and cleanliness within your space. By creating a calm environment, you create a space where you are more able to focus your thoughts, to find a sense of peace. Saucha in your environment also reflects a respect for that space and creates an enjoyable environment. I like cleaning, (weird,I know) so creating saucha in my space is enjoyable for me. Last weekend I did a deep clean of the apartment to get everything sparkling. This weekend I am tackling buildup of sand and dirt that has collected in my car. Daily, I make a conscious effort to put things back where they belong, keep up with the dishes, and clean up after the kittens (toys everywhere). These are little things but they make a world of a difference in cultivating saucha in your environment.
Saucha for your body is two-fold, general hygiene and diet. Obviously to keep your body clean you gotta shower (duh), especially after hot yoga classes. Hopefully we’ve got that step covered so take it one step further. Next time you shower, take a look at what products you’re using. What’s in your shampoo, conditioner, body wash, face wash, etc. etc.? How many unknown chemicals are in those products? Your skin is a living breathing surface, absorbing all those products. What’s in the products matters. This goes for makeup too. Some products are harder to find replacements for. I’m forever on a hunt for deodorant that works (sorry friends). An entire overhaul of all your products might seem like too much to take on at once, so take bite size chunks. I recently switched all my face care over to Naturculina, a California based company that uses all organic, natural ingredients. I know exactly what’s going on my skin. Moreover, this stuff works. More on that another time perhaps. Bottom line, be conscious of what you’re putting on your skin. Choose all natural products when you can.
Saucha of the body, part deux. Diet. To be as simple as I can here because I could write for days on this and I like to keep these posts a reasonable quick read: Eat clean, real food. Read your labels. If you don’t know what’s in it, probably not the best for your body. Some easy advice on diet comes from Michael Pollen (love him): “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” You are what you eat. Literally. It makes up your cells. So if you’re eating mostly processed, chemically laden foods versus local produce, imagine the impact on your body. No food is hard core off limits for me. I tend to avoid meat, dairy and gluten. I try to fill my diet with veggies, gf grains, fruits, beans, nuts, and occasionally fish. Also, water. DRINK it. This one is hard for me sometimes as I can easily go a day only having consumed coffee. I know; not good. La Croix is a life changer. Bubbly and delicious. I also make an effort to drink at least 3 water bottles at work plus an extra bottle if I take or teach yoga.
And finally, saucha of the mind. Your thoughts matter too. Tune into your thoughts and your intentions. Saucha of the mind is a little more complex (IMHO) than the environment and body. To me, it is more about having clarity of thought, goodness of intention, and speaking truth. Saucha of the mind doesn’t mean that you have to only think pure thoughts or else you’re failing. It is about shifting those intentions and thoughts toward goodness and purity. Two ways I work on incorporating Saucha of the mind into my life include becoming more conscious of my thoughts towards myself (e.g. no more negative self-talk) and goodness of intention when relating to others, trying to think and act with their best in mind. Speaking truth is still a hard one for me as I tend to avoid the truth when I think it will lead to confrontation. We are all a work in progress 😉
Next up: santosha.