In this first blog post on the Niyamas, or inner observances, we will discuss Saucha. Saucha translates to purity. This purity extends to our entire lives, including physical selves, thoughts, social lives, and surroundings.
Purity can mean different things to different people. Pertaining to our physical selves, purity could simply mean maintaining a clean body and regular hygiene. This is self-explanatory and the most basic use of the observance of Saucha. For some, a pure body might also be one that takes in only organic foods, drinks only fresh water, or sweats daily. Remember, what foods we put into our bodies will become our bodies on the cellular level. Alcohol consumption, use of tobacco, and eating junk foods are among some challenging considerations. Can you maintain a clear head and body if you imbibe in alcohol or tobacco? This is a personal preference and people need to follow their own hearts in terms of what "purity" or "cleanliness" means to them.
Cleanliness of thought is a little less clear. What constitutes a pure thought? Is it simply an honest thought? Is it thinking only ideas that are free from discord or duplicity? According to Deborah Adele in her book The Yamas & Niyamas: Exploring Yoga's Ethical Practice, "being pure with ourselves means we are not afraid of our thoughts or our feelings, and we do not have to hide anything from ourselves." This would incorporate honesty with ourselves, but also trust in our own emotions. Feeling is a healthy response, not something to bury or hide from. Owning our feelings in a nonjudgmental manner is a means of communicating nonviolently both with ourselves and with others. Purity of thought can also incorporate communicating those sentiments.
Saucha calls us to be pure in our social sphere. We must cleanse our lives of people and situations that consistently prove to hurt us or bring stress to our lives. Setting healthy boundaries relationally is necessary. Cleaning out our friends list on social media is one means toward this purity. Other methods might include limiting time with peers who are not supportive of your life and your decisions or avoiding social situations that cause you undue stress.
Purging closets, donating unused items, and de-cluttering are all means of purifying our surroundings. Spring cleaning is a great ritual for Saucha. Regularly hoeing out drawers and cupboards and passing unused items on to people who could use them are both environmentally friendly and rewarding. Simplicity in our homes and surroundings can create a peaceful and relaxing living space. Whereas holding on to things that you no longer need, use, or fit into can be a burden mentally, emotionally, and visually.
Cleanliness is a part of yogic living leading us away from toxic lifestyles, relationships, and habits. Saucha can free us from situations that bog down our minds and hearts such as household clutter or holding on to friendships that are no longer healthy. Keeping our lives pure is not a one-size-fits-all observance, however. Neither is it a once in a lifetime cleaning out process. We must regularly listen to the guidance of our own hearts to find the purity for which our body is calling.