The five niyamas are part of the Eight Limbs of Yoga, and they serve as guidelines for living a fulfilling, morally upright life. The niyamas consist of saucha, santosha, tapos, svadyaya, and ishvara pranidhana. Today, we will look at the first one. What is the principle of saucha?
What is the principle of saucha?
When translated, the Sanskrit term saucha actually means “cleanliness,” in the context of yoga philosophy and the niyamas, saucha does not necessarily refer to physical cleanliness or hygiene. It also does not necessarily mean being “holy,” in the doctrinal sense.
Saucha actually refers to a return to a pure, untainted state—a mental, emotional, and spiritual state that is unhurt and unstruck from fears and expectations that have been shaped by society. To be in a state of saucha means to embrace one’s true, authentic self.
How to practice saucha
1. Saucha towards the body
When we look at the mirror, we often see ourselves for our flaws and imperfections. We feel the urge to change how we look like, and we end up comparing ourselves to others. Have you ever thought: I wish I was taller, I wish I was skinnier, I wish I looked more beautiful.
Our inner critic is usually influenced by the words and attitudes of others, or societal normal and expectations. The next time you hear that inner voice criticizing your body, question those thoughts instead of accepting it. Perhaps ask yourself: Where did I get the idea that I’m not beautiful?
Moving towards body positivity and self-acceptance can be a long and complex journey. However, practicing saucha reminds us that there was a time in our lives when we were untainted from negative thought patterns about ourselves. Try to practice loving affirmations instead.
2. Saucha in the mind
We often spiral into distress, anxiety, and depression when we attach our identities to our negative thought patterns. The next time you meditate, notice the behavior of the mind. Does the mind go off in tangents? Does one thought playfully jump to the next? Are you easily distracted?
Remember that it is the very nature of the mind to be mischievous, volatile, and erratic. When we finally lovingly accept that the mind can easily go off track, then we can move towards becoming observers of the mind. Practicing saucha means practicing mindfulness.
3. Saucha in the breath
There are different pranayama techniques that help purify the respiratory system. Ujjayi pranayama and kapalbhati pranayama are examples of breath control types that help build heat in the body, dispel the body of stagnant or stuck energy, and invite renewed vitality into the body.
Try to practice ujjayi or kapalbhati once or twice a week. You may perform these breathing techniques before or after meditation. This will also help stimulate your immune system and remove harmful pathogens or toxins from the body.
Practicing saucha is easier said than done. Remember to be patient with yourself, then remember that some habits are hard to unlearn. This is why yoga is a journey and a practice! Keep going and stay with it.