Saucha, often described as cleanliness, is one of the five Niyamas. The Niyamas are part of the Ashtanga Path of Yoga and are daily life practices; responsibilities to ourself. We follow these practices in order to keep our body healthy, to learn how care for our context, and to learn how to respect things we use. In the past, before someone could even begin a physical practice of Yoga, they were required to live the Niyamas. This provided a strong foundation for the Yoga.
When we practice yoga in it’s entirety we cultivate healthy habits that prevent illness, stop disease from spreading, and help us to better protect ourselves from becoming ill. We also develop integrity and strengthen our character which allows both body and mind to stay in harmony. This ultimately helps us keep balance in our lives. This is why it is important to realize that Yoga is more than Asana, or the physical practice of poses.
As a 2000-Hour certified Purna Yoga teacher Saucha was an important part of my training and continues to be part of my life and my Yoga practice. Saucha promotes a healthy lifestyle through cleanliness, purity, and boundaries. When we practice Saucha we cultivate respect for our body, our context (including our home, the environment, our workplace, places we visit) and the things we own in our lives as well as the things we don’t own, things we may be borrowing temporarily.
How do I practice Saucha in my daily life?
First, I do not wear shoes in my home. Our shoes travel many places and wherever we go we pick up dirt, germs and other yucky things on the bottom of our shoes. Think about how many different restrooms you might visit, dirty parking lots, hiking trails, etc. Some people even put these dirty shoes on the couch (or on the bed) and later place their head down in the same spot! When you bring shoes into your home these germs come along and pollute your personal space. Home is a sacred, healing space to relax and recharge after a long day at work. Bringing dirt and germs into your home increases the possibility that you could get sick from these germs. When you leave your shoes at the door you will feel the difference. Your home will be much cleaner, more beautiful, and a healthier space for you and your family.
After I remove my shoes my second step is to immediately wash my hands so anything I may have touched will not spread into my home and any germs are cleared from my hands. Washing hands isn’t only for at home; when you arrive at work and throughout the day keep the hands clean to prevent the spread of germs. As a teacher, I keep organic hand sanitizer on hand. Before I teach and after I teach I wash my hands. I also cleanse items I am often in contact with; my phone, the steering wheel, my computer keyboard, etc.
The third Saucha habit I practice is to shower right away and change my clothes once I arrive home. I do this right away; not after I eat, rest, do the dishes, or check my emails. When you take a shower right away you rinse off the activity of the work day along with thoughts, feelings, and memories of the day. With this habit the house stays cleaner physically as clothing picks up germs and dirt from all of the places we sit especially if you work in public places or ride the bus. My body and mind is cleaner and I feel more refreshed, more relaxed and happier at home.
How do I practice Saucha as a student of Yoga?
Ideally in a Yoga studio shoes would not be worn to keep the space clean. This isn’t always possible. You might consider wearing grip socks instead of bare feet and then changing into clean socks before you enter your home. Wash your hands before and after class. Always clean your mat and props before and after class especially if you are borrowing props from a studio.
Having your own props is ideal. A small investment that shows a deeper commitment to the practice of Yoga and to your health. If you do borrow props be respectful to the student who will use them next and neatly re-place and re-stack them. This is another aspect of Saucha; cultivating respect and cleanliness through organization and alignment.
As you go about your day notice how well you take care of your body and your home. Ask yourself what am I doing to cultivate Saucha in my life? The practices I covered are easy steps to start with at home and in class to develop cleanliness, boundaries, and purity in your Yoga off the mat. Try them out and feel how much healthier you and your home will be. Then go beyond this. Research and explore how you can practice Saucha in other areas of your life; from the foods you eat to the thoughts you think, and use Saucha to cultivate beauty, happiness, and health in your life and for your family. Namasté. Jessica Pribula, RYT-500
A graduate of the 2000 Hour Purna Yoga College, Jessica continues to deepen her practice studying with Yoga Master Aadil Palkhivala and Meditation Master Savitri at Alive & Shine Center in Bellevue, WA.