The Eight Limbs of Yoga: An 18-week mini-course
WEEK SEVEN: SAUCHA
Through simplicity and continual refinement, the body, thoughts, and emotions become clear reflections of the Self within. Saucha revels our joyful nature, and the yearning for knowing the Self blossoms.
SUTRAS II.40 – 41
Saucha is the first of five Niyamas, personal guidelines for living. Saucha, translated as cleanliness or purity, invites us to purify our bodies, our thoughts, and our words. Yoga as a practice purifies our system and by extension, our lives. It’s all about cleaning up our act and simplifying our lives to get down to bare bones of knowing who we are and revealing our joy.
The practice of Saucha encourages us to keep things clean and pure both inside and out. Keep our thoughts uncluttered so that we can feel free from affliction of emotions. Keep our body and environment in order to create a sense of calm.
Taking steps to cleanse and purify ourselves will look different for each of us. It might take the form of physical exercise, or increased water intake, a day of fasting on juices, or perhaps cleaning out our sock drawer. Maybe you will spend a day cleansing your speech so that you eliminate gossiping, complaining and whining. Whatever form cleansing takes, it always begins with an intention to lighten the load we are carrying. Where are these loads for you?
Personally, I am in the midst of clearing out my garage, a task I chose to avoid all summer. Now I want my truck in the garage for winter so the heaviness of that avoidance is evident. Darn, I wish I would’ve, could’ve, should’ve done it earlier. Oh well, that doesn’t get the job done either. Time to clean it and be done and enjoy the results of lightening my load.
Saucha also holds a relational quality that asks us not only to seek cleanliness in ourselves, yet to seek purity with each moment by allowing it to be as it is. We are asked to be with life, with others, with things, with the day, with work, with the weather, as they are in the moment, not as we wish they were or think they should be. Willingly accepting that “this is my life today” and live it well.
In The Secret Power of Yoga, Nischala Devi says, “Through simplicity and continual refinement, the body, thoughts and emotions become clear reflections of the Self within.” By purifying our attachment to outward things, which are both transient and superficial, we are able to reflect more deeply on our individual nature and come to know what is most real and reliable within, which is both enduring and genuine.
Cultivating simplicity can be a refreshing change from the complicated world we live in. As the holiday season begins to unfold, Saucha is a wonderful practice for avoiding the stress that so often accompanies the holidays with the addition of details and too much to do. Perhaps this year, embrace the art of simplicity with less material and more ethereal exchanges. Give love and let your undivided attention to the present moment be your gift to yourself and your loved ones. The most innate desire for all humans is to be seen and heard and connected by a sense of belonging. Saucha reminds us to cleanse away distractions so that we can clearly see, and hear and genuinely connect with everyone.
Most likely during the upcoming holidays we will find ourselves in the midst of very familiar circumstances and traditions, experiencing very familiar responses. Let us be aware of the choice to act in a new way, rather than repeating old habits and patterns that no longer align with who we truly are. Consider for yourself how you would like to clean up your act, inviting simplicity into your days, and let your joyful nature shine.
How do you keep your body clean and pure? Your home? Your meals? Your speech? Your life?
Even organized, clean cupboards are an aspect of our yoga practice… yes, really!