The niyamas in yoga are 5 observances or restraints which help cultivate wholeness and spiritual connection. They encourage us to love our daily lives with the same reverence and joy that we bring to our yoga practice, on the mat.
The first niyama is saucha (pronounced shah-chah, the au sounds similar to the ow in cow.)
The Sanskrit word saucha means cleanliness or purification. The root meaning of saucha is “being radiant.” Yoga is a gradual process of self purification.
Nischala Joy Devi, in The Secret Power of Yoga tells us, “Through simplicity and continual refinement, the body, thoughts, and emotions become clear reflections of the Self within.” As we clean the windows of our bodies and minds with the contemplative practices of yoga we can invite more of the spirit’s light into our being.
Saucha operates on many levels: cleanliness for our bodies, the maintenance of clean and orderly homes, eating healthy food and drinking clean water. We also aspire to cleanliness of our minds, trying to cultivate a positive attitude, not polluting our mental atmosphere with negativity and obsessions. Practicing saucha helps us experience ourselves as clean and clear. It is a pre-condition for experiencing the fullness of yoga and attaining spiritual wholeness.
Parenthetically, it is not a coincidence that Gandhi worked hard for sanitation workers in South Africa and India. Health and sustainable efforts for cleanliness can benefit the individual and the community.
In the U.S. we are privileged to have clean water available, but elsewhere in the world over a million people do not have this same access. Perhaps when we have a drink of water we can offer thanks for it, send a prayer to those without safe water, and explore ways we can contribute to the sustainability of this precious resource.
We are all interconnected and as we observe saucha in our everyday lives we can become more radiant and refined.