Śaucha - शौच
Śaucha is the first of the five niyamas (internal self-discipline) of the eight fold limbs in yogic philosophy. It can be translated as cleanliness, clearness and purity. Śaucha invites us to see our whole being in a holistic context. Body, mind and speech are aiming for this collective purity.
Translation for us
Everything we take into our system, may it be our diet, information we receive every day, our general lifestyle etc. has an influence on the overall state of our being.
In the current situation, where we are all spending lots of time at home, we can practice Śaucha very well. We can use this time for us, to observe our current habits, observe if they are still “feeding” us in a nourishing way. Use this period to observe your thoughts, words and actions. Give yourself space to invite new ideas and let go of the old.
Like every yogic practice Śaucha is a lifetime practice, too. Start planting small seeds and let them grow every day.
Śaucha at home
Our environment often reflects our state of mind. When we’re surrounded by a clean environment, with clear surfaces, possessions that we need and the sense of having space to breathe, then we’re likely to feel a whole lot better and clearer in our minds.
It might be already the time for an early spring clean, to get rid of clutter in your home. Stuff, that doesn't make you feel good anymore, stuff that holds you back. Take some time to clear your space at home to make new room to breathe and center yourself. Keep your home clean & fresh, so you will be, too.
Also in diet, eating healthily and organically is considered ‘cleanest’ for us. If foods contain lots of preservatives, additives, and pesticides, our bodies have to work hard to detoxify and eliminate these unnatural chemicals before even being able to absorb the goodness from what we eat and drink. We shouldn’t pressurise ourselves to stick rigidly to food rules anyway. But the cleaner our food is, the cleaner we’re going to be inside and out. It’s just about having awareness of what we’re consuming, and making conscious choices to enable us to live healthier.
Before your asana practice
On a really practical level you may want to take the time to shower before your practice and put fresh clothes on. You might want to air your room before stepping on the mat, to clean the air. If you like, you might want to light some Palo Santo before practicing, to start fresh and clean. Make sure you have some free space around your mat. Put everything away you don't need for your practice to allow yourself to be as clear and focused as possible.
In the Hatha Yoga Pradipika we can find a series of cleansing techniques that we can consider before even practising asana. They include:
Neti – nasal cleansing, including both Jala- and Sutra-Neti
Dhauti – cleansing of the digestive tract
Nauli – abdominal massage or churning
Bhasti– colon cleansing
Trataka - blinkless gazing, also known as candle gazing
Take it into your asana practice
During your practice observe the transitions from one asana to the next once you are in the flow. Allow yourself to create “clean” transitions without any “decoration elements” in between.
Asanas to deepen this month:
Twists, Inversions and Heart-Opening Asanas are great to cleanse the physical, emotional and energetic layers of the self. Here are a few examples:
Ardha & Purna Matseyendrasana - Lord of the fishes pose
Parivrtta Parsvakonasanasa -Revolved side angle pose
Jathara Parivartanasana - Revolved spinal twist
Garudasana -Eagle pose
Gomukhasana - Cow face pose
Dhanurasana - Bow pose
Urdhva Dhanurasana - Wheel pose
Paschimottanasa - Seated forward bend
Matsyasana - Fish pose
Salamba Sarvanghasana - Shoulder stand pose
Salamba Sirsasana - Supported headstand
Viparita Karani - Legs-up-the-wall pose
Practice Kapalabhati, the shining skull breath, as one part of the Kriyas, yogic cleaning practices, to clean the physical body, aid purification and vitalisation of the frontal lobes. You can read more about it here.
Beyond the yoga mat
On a more mental level, remember that the idea of our practice is to recognize what doesn’t help us and what does. As throughout life we often pick up habits and beliefs that may or may not serve us. So with your yoga practice try to bring awareness to your internal patterns to enter a state in which you can act consciously towards being happier, healthier and more awake. If we take our ‘bad’ habits with us on to the mat, our practice becomes a lot harder. We have to sift through the negativity we’ve picked up, before reaping the true benefits of Yoga.
Further reading and listening