patanjali

The yoga sutras are said to be written by Patanjali, an ancient yogic sage who lived almost 2000 years ago. Some say the sutras were not written by one person, but many authors. Either way, the sutras are a guide to being a good yogi. Eight limbs of yoga are described in the sutras, the first being the yamas, a series of restraints. We’ve covered the yamas: ahimsa, satya, asteya, brahmacharya and aparigraha on this blog.

The second limb of yoga covers the niyamas. Where the yamas are what not to do, the niyamas are what you should do.

The first yama is saucha, and it means, you should be clean. Perhaps the most literal interpretation of saucha in a yoga room would be to bathe regularly and remember deodorant. If you have feet that tend to reek, wash them before entering the studio. Be careful not to step on, or fling your sweat onto another person’s mat. If you are prone to big explosive exhales during your practice, make sure they aren’t landing directly on your neighbor. 

Another literal interpretation of saucha has to do with keeping the studio clean and organized. No piles of junk or unused equipment piled up in a corner of the yoga room. A place for everything and everything in its place. During classes, mats should be organized in a logical way, not thrown down willy-nilly. Rows are formed so that energy flows cohesively.   

Saucha is also being mindful of what foods and other substances we put into and on our bodies. Can we eat cleanly? Can we try to use natural products with the least amounts of chemicals in them? 

Saucha might also mean being mindful of the energy we bring into a space. Many studios have a late policy, after a certain time doors are locked and students aren’t allowed in. Yoga Journey does not have this policy and welcomes students even if they are late, or have to leave early. I’ve heard Leslie say she believes a little yoga is better than no yoga, and even if people get a little, they’ll take it out into the world and make it a better place. If running late, we can practice saucha by taking a cleansing breath before entering the studio, being mindful not to bring our frantic “late” energy into a class already in progress. If we have to leave early, we can do so quietly. Practicing saucha, we can be mindful of every space we enter, checking our energy before proceeding, taking a breath, setting our intention moment by moment, scene by scene as we navigate our days.

Saucha might also mean being clean in our relationships. Being honest, talking through problems as they come up, and not allowing misunderstandings or resentments to build. 

“Does this feel clean?” It’s a good question to ask ourselves, not just about our bodies and spaces, but our thoughts, actions, and intentions, as we use the concept of saucha to delve more deeply into our yoga practice.  

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