An Introduction to Saucha

sauchaYogic 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!

Aparigraha: Freedom!

When I dig into the yamas it's always quite humbling. I've been studying for years, but the breadth and depth of yoga is such that sometimes some areas slip until you bring them back into focus. This is the case for aparigraha.

When I'm planning yoga classes I brainstorm for a while. This process includes sprawling diagrams of ideas and quotes that are eventually rounded up together in ways that can be woven into our physical practice. Interestingly, a couple of things happened when I dug into aparigraha. Firstly, before I even started to organise the ideas, I was inspired to have a good old closet clean out. Secondly, I couldn't help but write in capital letters in the center of my plan 'FREEDOM'.

I believe that the most wonderful part of practicing aparigraha (whether you want to translate it as non hoarding, non attachment, non greed or non coveting) is the feeling of freedom it can give you.

Over the next few weeks, I'd like to invite you to focus on the practice of aparigraha. I'll be sharing some words and ideas through articles and also in the studio. Whether you feel joy, lightness and freedom, or experience resistance and doubt there is always something to be learned from aparigraha.

Aparigraha

Aparigraha: A Real Life Lesson

One of the best things about being a yoga teacher is that I will forever be a student of yoga. I'm always learning, and I'm not immune to the many ways that we can resist the physical and/or internal practices! Today I thought I'd share somewhere that I got stuck;

As we traveled through the yamas together over the last few months I came to a sudden stop with aparigraha. I understand many of the meanings and applications of this yama and I do my best to practice it on and off the mat, but unsure of how to perfectly share the meaning and application of aparigraha I became paralyzed by indecision and perfectionism. I told myself that I couldn't cover all that there is to cover in this subject in the time I had allotted myself, and my impossibly high expectations made me stop rather than making any attempt.

Aparigraha can be translated as non hoarding, non grasping, non attachment or non clinging.
But what was I subconsciously doing? I was attached to what people might think of my personal interpretation of this yama. I was attached to the results of my efforts, and grasping for perfectionism. Don't think I haven't noticed the irony in that situation!

So let's have another go. What we do on the mat is a preparation for what we do off the mat; we practice - imperfections and all. Let's dig into the practice of aparigraha and prepare to let go…

An Introduction to Aparigraha

This month (albeit beginning a little belatedly!) we’re focusing on the next yama - aparigraha. Firstly, let’s explore the translation:

Aparigraha

A - as a prefix in sanskrit negates the word(s) following it i.e ‘non’

Pari - translates as ‘on all sides’ 

Graha - means ‘to take’, ‘to seize’ or ‘to grab’

For the practice of yoga, this yama is translated in many different ways; some of the interpretations include non hoarding, non grasping, non attachment, non greed and non coveting.

When we explore these different translations it’s interesting to note that they have very different connotations - non greed and non coveting relate to wanting and taking more than we need, whereas non attachment and non hoarding may refer to things that we already have and need to let go of.

For that reason we’ll be exploring this yama from two different perspectives. We’ll share some journaling questions and affirmations to help explore this yogic practice both on and off the mat.