In the 8 limbs of yoga, the niyamas, or personal observances, make up the second limb. The practices within the five niyamas are meant to provide a moral code of conduct for the way we live. Saucha, or purity/cleanliness, is the first of these five niyamas. Saucha speaks to the importance of purifying the mind, body, and spirit, as well as our surroundings and environment. Bringing saucha into your daily yoga practice and everyday life creates sacred space for your growth in any area, and helps you bring your best to any situation you encounter. As your body, mind, environment, and thoughts become pure, you are able to bring more clarity to your actions.
Practicing Saucha (Purity) On and Off the Yoga Mat
Each of the niyamas, including saucha, comes with a wide-range of meanings. On a basic level, saucha can refer to physically cleaning and reducing clutter in a space so that we do not take on any external impurities. On a deeper level, it can mean cleansing bad habits that prevent us from reaching our full potential. Yoga postures, pranayama, and meditation are all ways that we can cleanse the mind and body to achieve saucha. Daily practices can help us purify the environment around us. Here are just a few ways to incorporate saucha into your life both on and off the yoga mat.
On the Mat:
- Create a sacred space. For your daily yoga practice, choose an aesthetically pleasing and neatly maintained studio to attend, or create a personal space at home free from clutter and designed with things that uplift and inspire you. A clean and pure environment will help you focus more deeply on your practice.
- Place yoga materials in a designated space. Whether you practice in a yoga studio or at home, having an appointed space for storing your yoga materials, and putting them away neatly and properly each time shows a respect for your practice. When you respect your practice, you are able to understand the deeper levels of it and honor your place within it.
- Chant “om.” Om is a sacred mantra commonly used during meditation and said to represent the sound of the universe as it is the first, original vibration. Chanting om before beginning your practice allows you to connect to your higher self and true nature while separating the energies and activities of the day from the start of your yoga practice. In this way, you come to the mat with a clean slate. Chanting om at the end of class seals the practice before you return to the activities of a regular day. In this way, the time you devote to yoga remains pure and sacred without interference from external happenings.
- Practice pranayama. Kapalabhati, or skull-shining breath, is a particularly effective breath for detoxing and purifying the body. This breathing technique alternates short, explosive exhales, and longer, gentle inhales. To perform kapalabhati breathing, inhale naturally through the nostrils, feeling your belly expand. In a short burst, force the air out of the lungs through your nostrils while pulling the navel towards your spine. Adding this to your pranayama practice can help you feel cleansed at any point during the day, as there is nothing more pure and simple than the breaths you take.
See Also: What is Pranayama Breathing?
- Practice lotus mudra. The lotus flower is a perfect example of one of the lessons within saucha: from the muddy water grows a beautiful and pure flower. As we practice saucha, we acknowledge the dirty and messy aspects of life while trying to emerge pure and clean. Using lotus mudra in meditation or with seated poses such as lotus (padmasana), hero (virasana), or easy pose (sukhasana) in your daily yoga practice is a small way to acknowledge this concept. To perform lotus mudra, start with your hands together in prayer position at heart center. Keep the base of your hands, pinky fingers, and thumbs together, while allowing the rest of your fingers to blossom open.
Off the Mat:
- Tidy up. Keep your living space clean and organized. By reducing clutter in your home, you are better able to keep your mind clear and focused. In addition, by showing respect for your living environment through cleanliness, you create a cherished space in which to recover and recharge on a daily basis.
See Also: Clear the Negative Energy From Your Home
- Wear clean clothing. Wearing clothing without rips, stains, or tears helps you achieve saucha, as well as feel more confident in how you present yourself to the world. Prioritizing environmentally conscious fabric in your clothing is another way that you can choose to honor the principle of saucha.
- Nourish your body. Consuming the right healthy foods for your body, and drinking plenty of water helps cleanse you from the inside. Nourishing your body in this way helps you feel your best in every area of life. Along with this, practicing mindful eating enhances your eating experience by helping you better appreciate the purity of taste, color, texture, and smell in each food you consume. Bringing this level of attention to your eating habits allows you to develop a sense of reverence around the act of nourishing yourself.
- Practice mindfulness. In addition to practicing mindfulness around the foods you eat, being mindful and present in every moment of daily life allows you to cleAR clutter from your mind. Instead of thinking about the past or future, you are able to stay focused on only the moment in front of you.
See Also: Mindfulness Tips for Busy People
- Scrape your tongue. Tongue-scraping first thing in the morning is an Ayurvedic practice that helps rid the tongue of toxins such as bacteria, viruses, and food debris from the surface of the tongue. These toxins accumulate overnight as the body’s digestive system works. Also known as jihwa prakshalana, the practice of tongue scraping immediately upon waking is thought to prevent the toxins from being reabsorbed into the body as we eat and drink.
- Get outside. Fresh air and sunlight are two of the easiest ways to cleanse and energize the body. Physically, getting outside will help you feel refreshed, while mentally it can help you clear your thoughts as you minimize distractions and enjoy the sounds, sights, and purity of the nature around you.
- Get good quality sleep. Many of our body’s restorative processes such as tissue growth and repair and the release of hormones are done while we sleep. Ensuring that we get adequate and deep sleep ensures that our body can cleanse itself and be rejuvenated each morning to perform at its best.
See Also: How to Wake Up Easier in 3 Simple Steps
Looking for more ways to bring the niyamas into your practice? Learn the importance of the 5 niyamas in yoga, and for a closer look at another of its practices, read why santosha is important in yoga and everyday life.