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 you live. Saucha, or purity and cleanliness, is the first of these five niyamas. Saucha speaks to the importance of purifying your mind, body, and spirit, as well as your surroundings and environment. Bringing saucha into your daily yoga practice and everyday life creates sacred space for your growth in any area and helps bring more clarity to your actions.
Practicing Saucha On and Off the Mat
Each of the niyamas, including saucha, comes with a wide range of meanings. On a basic level, saucha can refer to cleaning and reducing clutter in a space so that you do not take on any external impurities. On a deeper level, it can mean cleansing bad habits that prevent you from reaching your full potential. Yoga postures, pranayama, and meditation are all ways that you can cleanse your mind and body to achieve saucha. Daily practices can help purify the environment around you. Here are 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, 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 properly each time shows a respect for your practice. When you respect your practice, you’re 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 is said to represent the sound of the universe. 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. Adding breathwork to your yoga practice can help you feel cleansed and purified at any point during the day, as there is nothing more pure and simple than the breaths you take. Try working nadi shodhana (alternate nostril) or kapalabhati (skull-shining) pranayama to your practice.
- 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 you practice saucha, you 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’re 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 where you can recover and recharge on a daily basis.
- Wear clean clothing. Wearing clothing without rips, stains, or tears helps you achieve saucha and feel more confident in how you present yourself to the world. Prioritizing environmentally conscious fabric in your clothing is another way to honor the principle of saucha.
- Nourish your body. Consuming healthy food and drinking plenty of water help cleanse you from the inside out. Practicing mindful eating enhances your eating experience by helping you better appreciate the purity of taste, color, texture, and smell in the 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’re able to stay focused on the moment in front of you.
- Scrape your tongue. Tongue scraping first thing in the morning is an Ayurvedic practice that helps rid your tongue of toxins such as bacteria, viruses, and food debris. These toxins accumulate overnight as your 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 your body as you eat and drink.
- Get outside. Fresh air and sunlight are two of the easiest ways to cleanse and energize your body. Physically, getting outside will help you feel refreshed. Mentally, it can help clear your thoughts as you minimize distractions and enjoy the sounds, sights, and purity of nature.
- Get good quality sleep. Many of your body’s restorative processes such as tissue growth and repair and hormone release are done while you sleep. Getting enough adequate and deep sleep ensures that your body can cleanse itself and be rejuvenated each morning to perform at its best.
Want to begin or enrich your mindfulness practice? Check out our online yoga and meditation classes on Alo Moves.