Saucha is the first of the five niyamas (personal observances), which form the second limb of yoga as described in “The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.” The direct translation of the Sanskrit word, saucha, is purity, or cleanliness.
Practice of saucha starts with the external environment and keeping the surroundings clean. It also includes purity of bodies from both outside and inside, relationships and speech.
It’s important to keep the outside of the body clean by washing frequently; to keep the inside of the body pure by eating and drinking moderately and choosing food and drink that is clean and healthy. Asana and pranayama work to clean the body internally, removing toxins and impurities
But what about your mind? It is our grand teacher of self-love. Are the most important corners of the space that you reside in every day being cleaned? Is the garbage and toxic buildup of thoughts being emptied? What is the energetic cost of these mental activities? Do they foster connection and compassion or drive disconnection and isolation? What if you adopted a kinder tone with yourself?
The things you say and how you say them have an energetic cost. There’s a Rumi poem that speaks to a practice of saucha-in-word perfectly:
Before you speak, let your words pass through three gates:
At the first gate, ask yourself “Is it true?”
At the second gate ask, “Is it necessary?”
At the third gate ask, “Is it kind?”
If the answer is “yes”, go ahead and speak. If it’s “no”, hold your tongue.
Just like negative thoughts and words can pollute your life and have real energetic consequences, so can your actions. When life is a struggle, you may find yourself running low on patience and tolerance. A saucha-in-deed practice can be as simple as counting to ten before you act, or taking a step back from a situation before you lose your cool.
Like any practice, it’s much easier to develop a practice of saucha when things are going well. How can you practice saucha in difficult times?