Practicing Saucha

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As you delve deeper into your yoga practice, you may notice your yoga practice leak out into your life off the mat.  Yoga teaches us to see the big picture—so maybe we can muster up more patience during rush hour, or find contentment even in the face of a challenge, or tap into the courage and discipline that has been cultivated through yoga practice.

Way back in the second century BCE, there were some yogi guidelines written down called the Yoga Sutras.  This organized text defines the discipline of yoga and provides steps to quieting one’s mind.  One of the steps is a list of yamas, or moral restraints, which will help a yogi on their path.  The first yama is saucha, which means purity or cleanliness.  Whatever style of yoga you practice, you work to purify your body and mind.  This cleanse may start out on the physical level and turn more psychological as you deepen your practice.  By clearing out what you don’t need, you release blockages and allow energy to flow freely.

When you first make it to your mat, you may see noticeable changes as you move through the purification process—your body becomes stronger, leaner, and more flexible.  Then you will notice how your life off the mat can affect your yoga practice. Some foods or habits may no longer serve you. When you practice saucha, it includes the way you shower, clean your teeth, wear clean clothes, organize your home, eat nourishing and clean foods that move efficiently through your system, and how you absorb pure or clean imagery (like movies or television).

In other words, through saucha practice, you can find a balance that makes you feel clean and clear.  Besides the obvious advantages, cleanliness can reinforce self-esteem, feelings of self worth, and increased mindfulness of the self. So over the holidays, stay grounded by asking yourself—where in your life can you practice saucha?  In addition to cleaning your body, mind, and environment, you can take a mindfulness walk in nature (appreciate the snow!), sing or chant, fast from sleep or food, abstain from television, clear out your clutter, recycle, and surround yourself with clean energy and laughter.

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