Saucha (Purity): Studying the Niyamas

Saucha, or purity, is the first of Patanjali’s Niyamas. The Niyamas are yoga’s recommended habits for healthy living. To find out more about the Yamas and Niyamas, read this.

Wikipedia has a translation of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 2.41 as:

Through cleanliness and purity of body and mind (Saucha, Shudhi)
comes a purification of the essence (sattva),
a goodness and gladness of feeling,
a sense of focus with intentness, the mastery and union of the senses,
and a fitness, preparation and capability for self-realization.

Purity of body

white rose with water dropletsPurity of the body can be accomplished in many different ways. First, take a look at what you’re putting in to your body. Food, drinks, vitamins, supplements, medicines–the list of what we intake in a day is lengthy! Pay attention to everything you consume. Think about its purpose. When possible, eat organic foods to avoid pollutants and synthetic materials.

In his book, Light on Yoga, B.K.S. Iyengar recommends emptying the bladder and evacuating the bowels before practice of asanas (postures). He also recommends that you come to the mat after bathing. These recommendations are logical. No one wants to have to go to the bathroom in the middle of their yoga practice, and no one wants to sit next to someone who is smelly. However, these recommendations also serve the greater purpose of creating purity in the body before practicing. As you may remember, the Yamas and Niyamas are to be completed before you come to your mat to practice postures.

Some other ways to purify the body are:  sweating, nasal cleaning, and doing a cleanse for various body systems. Incorporate exercise that makes you sweat to help purify your body. Neti pots and different forms of nasal breathing can purify the sinuses and nasal passages. Performing a cleanse for your body can help eliminate unnecessary things your body has been storing. It can also help you kick cravings for unhelpful foods.

Remember, if you crave something, it is a sign that you are searching for happiness outside of yourself. As you may recall, trying to find happiness outside of yourself is a desperate and fruitless search because you will never quite find what you want. As expectations change and daydreams set unrealistic standards, your quest for external happiness will ultimately fail.

Purity of mind

For purity of mind, pay attention to what you say and what you think.

As my friend Susan might say, “This is a great opportunity to clean out your junk drawer.” We all have a junk drawer at home, a place to cram stuff that you may or may not need in the future. Frequently, new things get added and old things stay on the bottom of the drawer until we decide to clean that drawer.

Believe it or not, we have the same storage system for our thoughts and emotions. It’s not until we deal with these feelings and memories that we can clean out the negativity. All the thoughts and feelings that you’ve held on to for some reason that no longer serve you, let them go. They’re not helpful.

Anger, hurt, disgust, rage, contempt? Let them go and replace them with forgiveness, acceptance, and kindness. Notions of how things should be–let them go. Truly, anything that is not positive and uplifting, let it go.

Perhaps today is not the day where you will find forgiveness for someone who made you angry so many years ago, but do you really need to keep that anger? No, you don’t. Let it go. What if you began greeting the thought of that person with apathy and indifference? Begin by removing your negative feelings like a weed and, over time, positivity will grow in your garden.

Purity of spirit

Once you purify your body and mind, you can move on to enjoy the purity of your spirit. Without sludge and sluggishness in your body, without negativity and resentment in your mind, you open yourself up to the world. You are able to enjoy your days and the people around you. Food tastes better. Sleep is better. Play is better.

Your purity invites good things to come your way and, because you are open, you are ready to receive and appreciate them. 

What other ways can we purify ourselves? Let us know in the comments below.

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Sarah Stockett is STOTT certified in Matwork, Reformer, Cadillac, Chair, & Barrels, Injuries & Special Populations, and CORE; a Yoga Alliance RYT-200; and has studied Active Isolated Stretching. When she is not trying to discover the best exercises to get rid of pain, she likes watching movies and travelling with her family.

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