As we continue to navigate yoga philosophy, this week we begin to explore the niyamas. The second of the eight limbs of yoga, niyamas are referred to as observances and are described as “attitudes that reflect how we relate to our self.” The five niyamas include purity, contentment, self-discipline, self-study and surrender.
While the aforementioned list can appear daunting or restrictive, yoga invites us to approach these observances as opportunities to take ownership of your life and direct it towards the fulfillment that you seek. More subtle than the yamas, the niyamas can be thought of as personal self-care.
The first niyama is Saucha, or purity. Saucha is an invitation to clean up our bodies, attitudes and actions. The principle of purity is seen as having a two-fold meaning.
First, to purify our bodies, thoughts and words. With practice, one becomes less cluttered and heavy, experiencing greater clarity. To cleanse and purify ourselves will look different for everyone. It doesn’t have to be an extreme juice cleanse. It may be increased physical exercise, drinking more water, cleaning out closets, practicing forgiveness.
The second meaning of Saucha is the practice of being aligned in our relationship with others, with the task at hand, and with ourselves. This aspect of Saucha asks us to be with life, with others, with work, as they are in the moment. This means letting go of ideals, expectations and illusions. This can be most difficult to do with ourselves. Instead of planning how you are going to do better, be better, strive to be with and love yourself as you are.
These two practices of Saucha are interrelated. As we purify ourselves, we gain the clear vision to meet each person and moment with fresh eyes. The observance of purity guides us to move into ease, lightening the loads of body, mind and spirit.
In applying the observance of Saucha to your own self-care practice, consider practicing one of the following:
- Over the next week, begin to purify your thoughts and speech. Take note of the negative and replace these thoughts and words with love and gratitude. Journal your experience to identify patterns.
- Challenge yourself to replace on unhealthy food you eat with something that tastes just as good, but contributes to your health.
I would love to hear your experiences. If you are so inclined, email me at email@example.com
Tune in next week as we unpack the niyama of Santosha, contentment.