At the end of last year, we reviewed the Yamas of yoga practice. Yamas are ethical considerations asked of us. If you missed them, you can find my thoughts on those here: Non-violence, Truthfulness, Non-stealing, Chastity, Greedlessness.
The next category of yoga practice, called the Niyamas, is sometimes referred to as Self-Restraints. It seems to me that these are often overlooked, possibly because our Western culture isn't in the habit of doing much self-restraining! But for those looking for the deep transformation that yoga can provide, these five practices are important guideposts along the way.
The first niyama is called Saucha (or several alternate spellings) which translates as purity or cleanliness. The original yoga sutras comment that as we are pure in the physical body, our mind is freed to more spiritual pursuits. Certainly uncleanliness and/or impurities can be a distraction from our path to our highest wellbeing. So, what are we talking about here?
First, in the physical sense, keeping the body clean inside and out is important. Here my naturopathic side springs to life! Eating clean, whole food is the very foundation of our physical health. Pure water and clean air support our health. Minimizing our exposure to toxins wherever we can is an excellent idea. These things will help our body function at its best, so as not to distract us from higher pursuits.
What about your physical environment? Is it cluttered, messy or dirty? Do you have distracting piles of "stuff"? Or is it a pleasant, even beautiful, place to be?
Consider the "food" you put into your mind. Is it helpful, inspiring, kind? We can apply this to the movies and television we watch, the books and news we read, the people we associate with and how we talk to ourselves. Do we have regular thoughts of anger, jealousy and judgment? Our mental environment can be chaotic or peaceful - and peaceful lends itself much better to health and wellbeing!
In her book, Yoga Mind Body & Spirit, Donna Farhi shares that practicing saucha involves making choices about what you want and don't want in your life. And by choosing things of a pure nature, we can experience life more vividly.
How can you incorporate the practice of saucha in your daily routine?