Also through cleanliness and purity of body and mind (shaucha) comes a purification of the subtle mental essence (sattva), a pleasantness, goodness and gladness of feeling, a one-pointedness with intentness, the conquest or mastery over the senses, and a fitness, qualification, or capability for self-realization. (translated by Swamij)
Last night, before bed, I did some things that I often leave for the morning: I washed all the dishes; folded and put away the laundry; and straightened up the living room. When I awoke this morning, I found myself happier, lighter, and with a sense of freedom as I walked about my house and prepared for my day. By having a clean house, I felt better and more expansive. How many times have you, knowing you have a lot to do, first cleaned your house? Is your self-esteem slightly lowered when you know your clothes are dirty, or you haven’t showered? How many times have you told a friend, lover, or yourself that you felt gross after eating processed or fast food? This is because cleanliness is vital to reach our truest nature and our highest self.
Saucha or “cleanliness” is the first of the niyamas, the observances we hold toward ourselves. Saucha asks us to remove the extra clutter in our lives so we can move into our true potential. In Riding Your Own Current, I write about how we, and everything around us, are made of energy. To move and work from our best Self, we must be clean vessels. Yoga is the process of unblocking energy lines so you are aware of how you are feeling, what you are experiencing, and the quality of your present experience. In order to recognize your thoughts, speak with truth, act without harming another (yourself included), and recognize the divine in all creatures, you must keep your home, car, and body clean and away from clutter. How can we find freedom and transcendence or pure joy when we judge others, when we listen to gossip, when we eat genetically modified foods, when we destroy natural habitats, allow animal extinction, declare war, when we live in clutter and consume more than we need? Both external and internal cleanliness allows us to live purer, more straight forward lives. Without the clutter in our lives, without the toxins in our bodies, we function like clean efficient machines allowing the divine to move through us.
My best friend lives in Paris and recently went to a yoga class and loved it. What she loved about it was the simplicity of the class. She felt the teacher stripped the class of all the “bells and whistles” and the only extras in the class were what the practitioner brought from within. My dear friend summed up the basic idea of saucha: to wipe away the extras to allow what is naturally present to shine. To embrace this first niyama, find ways to simplify your life and remove the extraneous bells and whistles. Start small: clean a closet today, drink more water tomorrow, buy organic carrots. Slowly cleanse yourself with one thing every day, maybe two, then three, until saucha is a normative part of life. Feel the freedom as you find more room and space in your life. Watch your inner light shine through the cracks and fill your body. For me, cleaning my dishes, putting my clothes away can feel like a chore. But I also know that this is part of the process for me to relax, to grow, to manifest my dreams. Saucha reminds us that by clearing out the old we make space for life to bloom.