Yoga, as described in the yoga sutra, is made up of an eight-fold path, each limb is meant to guide us to living a happier, more purposeful life in the now. The second limb of the eight-fold path, niyama, is concerned with discipline – how we treat ourselves (whilst the first one, yama, focuses on how you treat other and the outer world), or begin to cultivate the inner being. These are sometimes called observances, the do’s, or the thou -shalts.
This week we will focus on the first niyama Saucha, which translates to cleanliness or purity. In class, we will use poses that helps boost our metabolism and circulation throughout the body with inversions (hips above the heart), twists and binds as well as open up our back to release any stagnation and congestion in the body
What to take away from this niyama is how close the connection between our “inner world” and the outer world is.
If you ever walk in to a messy room, where you constantly have to step over things or move them around to find what you are looking for, I’m sure that you know that this can make your mind feel scattered or even stressed. (Side note: it is now clinically proven that a “wandering mind is an unhappy mind” will talk more about this in class over the next few weeks)
By keeping our physical space clean we can easier focus on what we are doing, for example yoga. It can be hard to keep your attention on your breath if you knock a pile of books over or suddenly see some spilled yogurt under the table.
Wearing clean clothes and having a good personal hygiene also falls under Saucha. By keeping ourselves clean we show a respect towards our bodies and towards other. Having a shower after a stressful day is a great way to “wash the day off”, it allows us to de-stress and start over. Feeling like we have our basics need met makes it easier to focus on other things.
Saucha includes what we eat as well, keeping our diets clean from us much additives and chemicals as much as we can. For example, when we eat fruit that has been heavily sprayed with pesticides our body first has to detox and get rid of all the chemicals before it can absorb all the vitamins. That is why we usually end up feeling tired and like we have no energy if we eat processed fast food.
This is also why a lot of yogis choose to eat less meat, due to the meat industry bringing more suffering in to the world as well as the negative effect it has on the environment.
So just like the food, our bodies will benefit from us having a clean/pure inner and outer space to be able to absorb all the benefits of yoga.