4 May 2021
One thing we can say for the last year is that a lot has changed. We’d never have believed in March 2020 that we would only just be starting to tentatively pop our heads up over the chaos that Covid-19 has created worldwide, over a year on.
One of the major changes in my own household (apart from making my yoga room a Zoom studio!) is that my partner found a great new job, at a time when jobs were very hard to come by indeed. It kind of just fell into place, as if it was meant to be. For most of his career he’s been a writer in some form or another, and after a break for a few years he’s returned to writing for a living, and it has felt for him like coming home. Which is appropriate, of course, as a lot of us are now actually working from home, and we may continue to do so going forward.
In preparation for starting his new role writing articles for the Financial Services sector, we re-decorated his study. The room was due a spruce up, and it needed to be configured to accommodate more hours at his desk. He chose a calming silver grey for the walls, and we rearranged the furniture to create a more spacious and welcoming atmosphere. We also put a lot of books and files from the old setup into the loft, and cleared a space for creativity (red and orange blanket on his chair seat, for grounding and the flow of creative expression with the colours of the root and sacral chakras, but of course!)
Although we didn’t go overboard, this gentle makeover has really made a great difference. The room is a much more welcoming work space and gives a feeling of comfort and readiness for its purpose. It feels clean, fresh, and new; creating the correct vibe, if you will.
It has a feeling of “Saucha”.
Saucha is the first of the Niyamas, or positive observances. It is usually translated as cleanliness or purity, encouraging us to create these on both an inner and an outer level.
For the outer level, we have the practices of asana and kriya to keep us pure and cleansed. Taking good care of our physical body is a prerequisite to moving forward on the path of yoga: without looking after our body we will not progress.
This means that as we practice we should ensure we are respecting the body we have been given, by keeping it as well as possible, through a sattvic (harmonious) diet, for example. Just like a newly refurbished study, the body needs to be fit for purpose, and in this case configured optimally for those who practice yoga.
In addition, we can strive to keep ourselves as clean and pure as possible in a spiritual sense, including using the practices of meditation and following the advice of the yogic texts. We can also promote inner Saucha by keeping negative thoughts and attitudes at bay, being strong in our resolve to be the best person we can. The Bhagavad Gita says, ch5 v7:
“Those who follow the path of service, who have completely purified themselves and conquered their senses and self-will, see the Self in all creatures and are untouched by any action they perform.”
So just as giving a study a spruce up, Saucha can mean we can give our space for yoga a spruce up too, on both an inner and an outer level.
Coming to the mat each time we practice, we neutralise first, by “centering”, so that we can feel that essence of purity and space as we begin our practice. Here are some further suggestions for incorporating Saucha into our practice:
Saucha on the mat:
· Coming to the mat with a fresh and ready attitude, including wearing appropriate clothing and making sure our space and our equipment are clean and pleasant to use
· Aiming to do the best we can at any given time, not holding back on enthusiasm, but not pushing too far either – the Sattvic approach
· Not pre-judging our practice or the postures we are about to use in it, but keeping an open mind and taking a step back from reacting according to our preference
Saucha off the mat:
· Aiming to be our best self both on and off the mat, bringing to bear our highest possible moral standards to both ourselves and when interacting with others, e.g. non-judgment, equanimity, compassion, ahimsa (non-violence) etc.
· Trying to eat more organic and locally sourced produce, trying to avoid fast food and taking time to enjoy home cooking when possible
· Considering where our produce comes from and where the packaging from what we buy goes to
· Refraining from judgement, as we do on the mat, and taking a step back to consider other points of view with a fair and unbiased approach
As Master Yogi BKS Iyengar said:
“The body is your temple. Keep it pure and clean for the soul to reside in.”