The next limb we'll explore, is the first tenet of the Niyamas... Saucha.
How are the niyamas different than the yamas, you ask?
While both are forms of restraints to help guide and direct daily yogic living, the yamas (which we finished exploring in July) focus more on actions and attitudes to our environment where the niyamas are much more focused on the inner relationship that we have and cultivate within ourselves.
As we move into exploring the niyamas, I invite you to consider how you might approach these practices from a place of non-judgement and complete compassion for unveiling the greater love and truth that resides within you.
The individual discipline of saucha is translated as cleanliness, is continual and cyclical. It's an everyday practice that's accomplished through daily rituals, perhaps a weekly practice of fasting, a seasonal practice of cleansing, and yoga practice.
The practice of saucha in some ways is very straight forward. Each day we engage in acts of self-care that center around the idea of cleanliness: showering or bathing, wearing clean clothes, eating healthy and nutritious food in healthy amounts, and maintaining our personal hygiene.
Depending on what types of daily rituals are supportive for your life, will impact how you approach the practice of cleanliness, so there is no single way to engage this practice. It is individual and unique to you constitution, your living situation, privileges, and abilities. What's essential is the focus on cleanliness of the sense organs, personal hygiene, and cleanliness of our surroundings.
One practice from Ayurveda that is one of my favorites and is easy to master is that of tongue scraping. This might sound a bit unappealing, but it's amazing. There are several types of tongue scrapers out there, they are generally inexpensive, and can be found online or in health stores, so choose one that appeals to and works for you. Since the tongue acts as an organ of elimination, the practice involves scraping away any waste that has accumulated overnight in the pockets of the tongue, so this practice is best done in the morning.
Here's the basic steps for tongue scraping:
- In the morning check your tongue in the mirror to see what has accumulated overnight on the tongue
- After brushing your teeth, using an antimicrobial metal scraper (i.e. gold, silver, copper), scrape the tongue from back to front a few times
When tongue scraping be careful not to scrape too hard. Gently scraping the tongue a few times will be enough to gain the benefits of bacteria elimination, disease prevention, and a cleaner mouth.
Whether your follow Ayurveda or decide to give tongue scraping a try, as you discern what daily rituals might be supportive for your life, first explore what aspects of your life can be 'cleaned up' and how daily cleansing routines can support this cleansing. Then consider which foods you can eliminate because they provide little to no nourishment and which foods you would like to ingest more to support deeper nourishment for your body.
Once you've explored these aspects of saucha, then I invite you to also meditate on which aspects or parts of the self are always pure and will be eternally clean.
The practice of saucha does not need to be perfect and in many ways it can benefit you greatly to experience a day of pure indulgence. However, the healing of this work is in the support of your discipline and genuine attempt to cultivate an overall life of balance that supports daily rituals of self-care, health, and wholeness. In this kind of care for the cleanliness of the body, your actions can be integrated overall and the discipline of the practice can then free you up to live a life of more freedom and exploration of what is truly possible for your individual nature.
Resources for further reading:
Happy, Healthy, & Sexy by Katie Silcox
The Wisdom of Patañjali's Yoga Sutras by Ravi Ravindra
The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice by T.K.V. Desikachar
The Yoga Sutra of Patañjali: A New Translation and Commentary by Georg Feuerstein