Recently I’ve been reflecting on the first Niyama outlined in Patanjali’s yoga sutras. The Niyama’s are the second limb of yoga, and the five precepts of this limb provide guidance on areas where we can practice self-restraint to assist our yoga practice. Saucha – the first precept is often translated as ‘purity/cleanliness’. The concept of purity and cleanliness extends to both the physical and mental aspects of our lives in order that the spiritual is enhanced. Through cleaning out the physical, modifying the mental and gearing ourself towards positive, life affirming thoughts and behaviours then we can advance in our yoga practice on and off the mat, a whole lot easier.
Most of us know how a cluttered and dirty physical environment makes us feel indecisive, disjointed and sometimes even directionless. At a physical level we can change those feelings simply through cleaning and tidying, and in doing so we affect our thoughts and emotions, clearing space for more positive thoughts and emotions to arise. Similarly when our thoughts are messy, jumbled, negative etc we know the impact of this on our psyche.
I had a close friend for many years that lived a very chaotic life – see sawing emotions, messy and dirty home environment, a strong pattern of negative thoughts, often railing against the world, difficult to maintain a job and friends. For a while I was right there with her, right into railing against the world, moaning about the establishment, wallowing in the negativity but it did me no good. And as the years passed and I embraced yoga more and more, we went our separate ways – me towards a better understanding of my happier, truer self; and her deeper into chaos, deeper into mess.
Saucha can permeate our thoughts and actions we if we allow it. Regular asana practice teaches discipline, Saucha teaches respect and cleanliness and can be practiced in many ways:
•The food we eat – less processed, less chemicals, predominantly organic if we can afford it.
•Our environments – clean and tidy spaces
•Situations – hanging out in environments that invite natural order.
•People – engaging with people who don’t speak badly of others, who endeavor to be positive, who honor and respect you and demonstrate this by turning up on time, being present when you are there and of course you offering them the same respectful behavior in return.
•Our thoughts – inviting and cultivating thoughts that are positive, that refrain from putting others down, refrain from stealing and taking credit for their ideas.
•Our work – bringing integrity to what we do, living our values.
•In yoga spaces – cleaning equipment, putting it away neatly, ensuring we respect the silence of the space by no mobile phones.
So it’s not because I’m a tidiness freak that I want those blankets stacked neatly, but because I want your yoga journey to be just that little bit easier.