Many people who practice yoga are often unaware that Yoga is actually an eight limbed practice with poses, or asanas, being only one of the eight components. Recently in my public yoga classes I have been teaching, week by week, the first two limbs of yoga (Yamas and Niyamas) which contain 10 important teachings on the yogic philosophy. Practicing them will at a minimum improve your yoga class experience, but will also likely improve your quality of life and sense of fulfillment.
This week we are focusing on Saucha, or purity and cleanliness. Like all of the Yamas and Niyamas we often begin by practicing them on an external level gradually moving towards a more internal understanding.
Taking Care of Our Environment
Have you noticed how clutter in our homes or work spaces can affect our mood and energy level? Clutter and uncleanliness can distract us, zap our productivity, and even leave us feeling ungrounded or agitated. As much as many of us like to procrastinate on cleaning and tidying we would probably all agree after we’ve done it, it feels fantastic! Just as cleaning our bodies each day feels rejuvenating and refreshing, making the time to organize, clean, and de-clutter can lift our spirit, clear our mind, and actually become an expression of how much we care about ourselves.
We want our environment to ultimately reflect what is best for our health and well-being. In yoga class, begin practicing by keeping your mat clean and fresh and neatly replacing any props you used during class. Here’s a simple recipe for homemade mat spray:
DIY Yoga Mat Cleaner (4 ounce bottle)
- 1 part water
- 1 part white distilled vinegar
- a few drops tea tree oil
- a few drops of your favorite essential oil
- ½ teaspoon castile soap
*spray and wipe clean with a towel
Create a little time each day to simplify, organize, or clean your space. Frame it as an opportunity to inspire self-care, not a chore!
We are also affected by what we take into our bodies through our sense organs: mouths, eyes, ears, nose, and skin. We want to be mindful of keeping a healthy balance so we remain unclouded and unpolluted. One of the most important practices is through mindful eating. Whenever possible choose nutrient dense, organic foods that are freshly prepared. Eat until you’re no longer hungry (not until you’re stuffed), so your digestive system isn’t bogged down and sluggish. Sluggish digestion can produce a sluggish mind.Take a mindful moment before eating to help you make better food choices and remember to give thanks for the food on your plate.
Cleansing the Body
Asanas (yoga postures) clean our bodies by massaging, detoxifying, and improving circulation in our muscles, tissues, and organs. Pranayama (breathing practices) purify the lungs, calm the nerves, and massage the heart among various other benefits. We only get one body and we’d be wise to treat it like a temple. You can easily sprinkle a little bit of mindful movement and breathwork into your daily routine by stretching for a few minutes after you shower in the morning, taking a few satisfying breaths before you eat, or putting your legs up the wall for a few minutes before bedtime.
Purity of Intention
During your yoga practice or in daily life, do you ever stop to pause and really listen to your thoughts? They provide clues as to what is the nature of our mind and what we really spend our time and energy thinking about. With the latest understanding of neuroplasticity we know we have more control over our thoughts than previously thought and that we can actually change the neural landscape of our brains. When our thoughts are pure, our intentions become clear. It in turn enables us to speak our truth effectively without harming ourselves or others. Take a few moments today to observe your thoughts as if they’re floating across a dry erase board. Quickly clear away the ones that are negative, self defeating, selfish, or harmful. Linger on the thoughts that are pure, honest, and refreshing.