(One of the Niyamas)
So, over the last year we have been looking at the Yamas, which are all about moral codes of conduct and how to live positively within our environment.
The Niyamas are the ‘Second Limb’ of the ‘Eight Limbs of Yoga’ and commonly translate as ‘observances’ or ‘positive duties’. They are traditionally thought of as practices that focus upon ourselves to achieve healthy living and spiritual balance (although they can also apply to the outside world too).
The first of these is Saucha, which means ‘cleanliness within the body, mind, spirit and surroundings’. The practice of Saucha helps us to maintain a positive environment that enables us to expand and grow healthily. It is clear that that impurities (external and internal) adversely affect our state of mind. So it’s important to work hard in keeping — not only our bodies but also our environment — clean and clutter-free. We’ve all experienced that rising sense of anxiety when our home feels cluttered and disorganised. Likewise, when surfaces are clean and you are able to move freely around, you can have a sense of order and calm.
This is also true of the food we eat. Pesticides used on fruit and vegetables, hormones added to livestock, plastic in fish from the high levels now found within the oceans. The cleaner our food, the cleaner we’re going to be — inside and out. It’s about awareness of what we’re consuming, and making conscious choices to enable us and the other sentient beings that share this planet with us to live healthily (and achieve a better balance within the world). We each have a choice in how we act, and by directing our thoughts towards positivity, we can add positivity to our own lives and to the world around us.
Of course, no one likes to be invaded by other peoples’ bodily smells, on or off the mat!
The practices of asana, pranayama and meditation cleanse and purify the body (and mind) through sweating. The sweat can contain smelly toxins, that any long-term practising yogi would know – which can be difficult to get out of your clothes, even when they are regularly washed! It’s pretty obvious that bathing, showering and washing your sweaty clothes is a good idea to have as part of your daily routine – not only does being clean keep us healthy outside and in, but cleanliness indicates a sense of self respect. So be mindful and respectful of others that you are sharing your space with.
Saucha is also purification, so I must also mention the traditional cleansing techniques used in India for aspiring yogis. These are: Neti – nasal cleansing; Dhauti – cleansing of the digestive tract; Nauli – abdominal massage or ‘churning’; Bhasti – colon cleansing and; Kappalabhati – ‘shining skull breath’. We’ll talk about these in more detail in a future blog!