Śauca is the first of the five Niyamas (personal observances) in Yoga philosophy and it signifies purity, cleanliness or cleansing.
What are Niyamas?
As we saw in the article on the eight limbs of Yoga; in the traditional Yoga system the second aspect of practice is called niyama or inner observances, which helps us build character and guides us to live life in its fullest, most joyful form.
The five niyamas:
Śauca - purity, cleansing
Santosa - contentment
Tapas - work, practice
Svadhyaya - self-study, self-inquiry
Ishvara Pranidhana - surrender the fruits of your actions
Śauca teaches us about the importance of cleansing and purifying. In Yoga, there are a lot of cleansing techniques that are part of the tradition. Cleansing is essential in order to prepare the self to approach our practice with pure intentions, which is an essential learning for any spiritual seeker. Cleanliness or cleansing can be applied to all layers of the self - physical, energetic, mental, emotional, spiritual.
How does cleanliness apply to our day-to-day lives?
- I bathe, brush my teeth and keep myself clean,
- I help my body in its detoxification process (by starting the day with a glass of water and squeezed lemon or by praticing breathwork for example),
- I clean my home and keep my desk or my practice space tidy.
Let me offer other (perhaps not as obvious) ways to practice cleanliness:
- I engage in a daily meditation practice to ensure that my mind stays clean of clutter and unnecessary judgments and thoughts,
- I choose to wash my tongue of any un-welcomed judgement and impure words,
- I practice purity in my relationships by being present during conversations,
- I practice staying pure to the moment instead of distorting reality with expectations, judgements and opinions.
When I was in India, our Yoga teachers taught us about sauca very early on, highlighting the importance of attending each practice clean and ready. Showers were to be taken before the practice, we had to wear appropriate clothing and make sure our practice space - shala - was clean and tidy before and after the practice. It taught me that this applies to everything else in life, the way you present yourself to things, people or situations is what you will receive back; a pure heart and pure intentions are the foundation of a spiritual life.
Approaching life with purity means to approach life with the intention to be pure with something instead of trying to make something pure; practicing presence and truth by letting go of preconceptions, expectations and judgment that often cloud our perception of reality.
Make Śauca a practice:
Next time you are about to take a shower, set an intention - decide what it is you would like to let go off in that particular moment. During your shower, clean yourself mindfully (how often do we take that time!) and when you rinse off the soap, imagine the soap taking with it all the other energetic, mental or emotional burdens you are ready to release. Feel yourself truly clean and then choose to act from a place of purity and love.
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