First Niyama: Sauca, cleanliness...

Saturday, 31 October 2020 15:25
After completing the Yamas we are now going to be investigating the Niyamas. These are the guidelines of conduct that apply to the individual. They require self-discipline "necessary to build up the sadhaka’s [yoga practitioner’s] own character."   translation of Sutra 2.32 on the Niyamas by BKS Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Thorsons, London, 2002 p.144
The Niyamas are good for cultivating happiness and self-confidence. 
As with the Yamas there are also 5 Niyamas and, as BKS Iyengar says these relate to the 5 sheaths (layers) of humans and the elements of nature:
Sauca = Anatomical - earth 
Santosa = Physiological - water
Tapas = Psychological - fire 
Svadhyaya = Intellectual - air 
Isvara pranidhanana = Spiritual - ether 
The first of the 5 Niyamas is Sauca - meaning cleanliness, purification of body and mind. It is said to be the entrance point to a deeper more tranquil state. And similarly to the the Yamas it relates to speech, thought and deed.
Sauca of body is essential for wellbeing and health. Bodily cleanliness, at this point in history, is, for most, a part of one’s daily routine. And of course, BKS Iyengar emphasises the importance of the yogic practices, such as asana and pranayama to enhance the health of the practitioner.
“While good habits like bathing purify the body externally, asana and pranayama cleanse it internally.” BKS Iyengar, Light on Yoga, Thorsons, London, 2001, p.16.
Adding to this, science now reinforces the connection between asana (and pranayama) and health. Showing that asana practice can retrain neurological pathways in the brain meaning yoga can literally change the way we think.
While Pranayama not only cleanses the respiratory and circulatory system it cleanses the mind to bring clarity to remove many obstacles, for example, sensory gratification. We have looked at many of these in the blogs analysing the Yamas. The impurities and the grasping nature of the mind are washed in order to remove mental pain, sorrow and despair. 
Sauca of body also relates to diet - quality of food and moderation of intake. Food is important to nourish, support and sustain a healthy balanced system. Vegetarian food is clean food and supports a world free from animal cruelty. As BKS Iyengar states:
“In the course of time, the practitioner of yoga has to adopt a vegetarian diet, in order to attain one-pointed attention and spiritual evolution.” (Light on Yoga, p.17)
Sauca also relates to thoughts. Learning to observe your thoughts while you’re practicing informs you in other areas of your life. Watch the negativity, and learn to let your ego sulk. “This internal cleansing gives radiance and joy. It brings benevolence.” And when one is “benevolent one sees the virtues in others and not merely their faults.”  (Light on Yoga, p.17) Then it is possible to see your own virtues making it easier to fight off negativity, which in turn helps to control the senses and obtain lucidity. 
Sutra 2.41 defines the purpose and result of Sauca: "From the purification of one’s essence cheerfulness arises, and with it, one-pointed concentration, mastery of the senses, and the capacity for sustaining the vision of the True Self." Mukunda Stiles, Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, p.27
Sounds awesome, doesn't it?
Sauca also pertains to speech. When we speak cleanly we are imbruing our language with kindness and empathy. Also ‘dirty’ language or swearing is a lazy approach to language which trivialises the power of language. 
Furthermore, Sauca can concern our environment, as Albert Einstein said, “Out of clutter, find simplicity.” Clean up your space.
There is an expression: ‘clean living’. When we describe someone like this, instantly we gain a glimpse of how this person is. For instance, it’s someone who:
  • Lives simply - without excess (beyond what they need - non-converting)
  • Has a healthy diet (eats and drinks in moderation with consideration for their health and health of the environment - non-harming)
  • And in a yogic sense, has a regular practice of asana and pranayama.
So essentially, it is the central point to begin the journey from, and it is also the result of the journey. It can a be seen as the entire aim of Yoga.
Asana is a direct link to finding stillness to embark on a meditative state, BKS Iyengar:
“The physical body is not only a temple for our soul, but the means by which we embark on the inward journey toward the core.”
Get on your mat:)
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An Iyengar Yoga School
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