Yoga is Distillation – the process of extracting the essence of base materials to create something pure and refined. On this path, WE are the base material. As a holistic lifestyle practice, yoga removes the impurities that prevent us from dwelling in our natural state of peace, joy, and clarity. It is an undoing…a peeling away of the layers of distortion that keep us trapped in a cycle of suffering built around the myth of separation. Yoga is the ultimate cleanse. It encourages us to search for the hidden dirt and grime in our bodies and psyches, and discard or transmute whatever fails to serve us. It asks us to hold up every aspect of ourselves, and ask the $64,000, Marie Kondo question, “Does this spark joy?”
The Sadhana Pada, chapter two of the Patanjali Yoga Sutra, is our How-To manual. It’s the nuts and bolts of the practice. It includes the Niyamah, the personal practices that lead to success on the yogic path – cleanliness, contentment, discipline, self-study, and surrender. (PYS 2.32) Cleanliness, or purity (Saucha) comes first, and sets the stage for all the others. We need to clean the slate and get rid of the junk before we can create something beautiful. We don’t want to build a temple on a pile of rubble. So let’s roll up our sleeves, empty the closets, sweep under the beds, and clean out the garbage that’s burying our light.
It starts with our Environment. We all know how great it feels to walk into a clean, bright, fresh-smelling home. Clutter is distracting and anxiety producing. Less is often more, and there is true freedom found in releasing objects we don’t need. We can use Feng Shui to encourage peace and balance in our homes. We can open the windows when the weather permits to bring fresh air in and prevent stagnation. We can smudge with sage to remove dark energies. As an added bonus, cleaning is an excellent outlet for nervous energy, and eases feelings of depression by creating a tangible sense of accomplishment.
Exercise, clean food, fresh air, basic hygiene, healthy sex, caring touch, bodywork, deep breathing, and play all help keep our Bodies clean and healthy. One of the best ways to purify our bodies is through Asana. The physical practice of yoga creates internal heat that helps flush out toxins. It strengthens the lungs to purify the breath, and massages the organs to optimize detoxification and elimination. It dislodges old, stuck energies in the muscles and connective tissues. Saucha of the physical body also includes what we consume. Fresh, wholesome food, prepared with love, help our bodies thrive, and gives us the energy for life-affirming pursuits. Ingesting toxins makes us tired, depressed, anxious, and unmotivated. Our bodies are vehicles for spirit. When we treat them with care and respect they will take us wherever we want to go.
We cleanse our Minds through observation and meditation. Our unexamined minds are full of rubbish! Meditation teaches us to slow down and sift through the thousands of thought that race through our heads everyday. Once we can identify them, we can learn to silence the toxic thoughts and encourage the positive ones. Chanting mantra purifies us on a vibrational level. We must also maintain vigilance over the thoughts and ideas we consume…what we watch, read, listen to, and tell ourselves. Perhaps that hour of doom scrolling would be better spent reading spiritual texts, listening to calming music, or watching something uplifting or funny.
We disinfect our Hearts with forgiveness and honest expression. Both holding grudges and refusing to apologize gunk up the gears in our emotional bodies. Our determination to be “Right” blocks the natural flow of love and keeps us mired in stagnation. All emotions are valid, and they are meant to move through us. When we hold onto negative emotions, instead of giving them voice and healthy expression, they fester and poison the entire well. Cry if you’re sad, scream if you’re angry, and move on. We keep our hearts pure when we follow the Love. Look for opportunities to extend kindness, gratitude, generosity, and service.
Our Relationships are purified through honesty and integrity. We tell the truth, to others, and ourselves, and we take care that our words and actions reflect our deepest values. We keep our relationships clean by avoiding toxic and negative people. We steer clear of energy vampires, and refuse to use gossip as a shortcut to intimacy. We set clear, healthy boundaries, and protect them unapologetically. We lovingly release the relationships we have outgrown, and practice loving from a distance. We share our feelings openly with those we trust, and try to listen with our whole hearts. We keep the promises we make.
Saucha is its own reward. Cleanliness and purity in every aspect of our lives sets the stage for joy, serenity, vitality, harmony, and spiritual advancement. Patanjali tells us “When the body is cleansed, the mind purified, and the senses controlled, joyful awareness needed to realize the inner self also comes.” (PYS 2.41) When we keep our side of the street clean, contentment is the natural result. We feel better, have fewer distractions, and pave the way for continued growth and blessings. Our internal and external housekeeping creates a beautiful and calm oasis – a welcoming home for spirit.