Yogic texts are a yogi's guide to peace, freedom and contentment. In the 8 limbed path of yoga, alongside the physical practice, breath practice and meditation there are suggested guides and restraints (non harming, non stealing, being truthful, conserving vital energy and non grasping) called the yamas. There are also some personal observances or 'niyamas' that can help us along the path to peace. The first of these niyamas is called 'saucha' which translates as purity or cleanliness.
As with many of the yogic practices, the words we use to translate from sanskrit to English can affect how we approach the practice:
In western yoga, the translation most commonly used for saucha is 'cleanliness'. This interpretation leads to a very physical expression of the niyama and it's where we'll begin our exploration.
What does a physical practice of cleanliness mean in relation to a yoga practice and daily life, and why is it important? Maybe you've heard of the expression 'tidy desk, tidy mind'; when our living spaces are cluttered and untidy, it can be difficult to relax or find things when we need them. If our yoga space is cluttered it can be difficult to stay present in our practice. If our wardrobes are chaotic they cause stress and overwhelm before we even begin the day. If our desk is burdened with an abundance of paperwork it can be difficult to work or stay on task. This is how a physical practice of saucha can help. Clearing and cleaning our environment allows us to relax, create or be focused. Having a place for items in the home means less time is wasted searching for them. A clear desk in the morning allows us to start fresh with whatever we set our minds to. An organised and simplified wardrobe makes getting ready a breeze. A clean and tidy environment can positively affect our experience in the moment. I'm not implying that we must be over the top and obsessive; as a creative person I know that many of my best work comes out of a slightly crazy workspace, but I know that if I take the time to find some sense of order at the end of each day, the next day will begin clear and focused rather than overwhelmed and confused!
I'd like to invite you to the practice of Saucha. Over the next few days and weeks, start to observe how clutter and disorder affects your mindset, whether it be in your home, at your desk or place of work, or even in your car. As we do so often in our practice, lets begin on the outside and work our way in!