Sauca – Why Purity Is More Than Skin Deep

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What does purity of speech and thought have to do with our āsana practice? Does having a pure heart really make us better at yoga? Find out why the way you approach life off the mat really make a difference to your practice on the mat.

Say What?

We’ve already covered the five yamas (non-harming, truth, non-stealing, control of the senses and non-grasping), but if that wasn’t enough for you we now come to the niyamas, or attitudes towards ourselves. It may be easier to think of these more as disciplines which help us progress with our yoga practice, and the yamas more as morals to help us treat other people as we would like to be treated. So are you swotted up on your yamas and ready to dive into the first niyama? Sauca (sometimes spelt shauca) is usually translated as purity, and as Mahatma Gandhi wonderfully put it:

True beauty lives in the purity of the heart.

What does it really mean to be pure in our yoga practice both on and off the mat? Read on to find out.

Using Sauca On The Mat

Obviously no one wants to practise alongside someone with a serious BO problem (although if we find ourselves in this situation we should remember the quality of ahimsa), but cleanliness and purity are actually about more than just taking a shower before class and remember to wipe down your mat every now and again. Most of our yoga practice involves cleansing the body and the mind one way or the other – movement, breath and even the brain all work together to aid the purification process.

  • Your body is the vessel

Most modern āsana (postures) were designed to bring ease into the body so that meditation was possible. How are you going to still the mind and reach enlightenment if all you can think about is your achy back or stiff shoulders? If our bodies are weary, our minds can’t be still, and if the mind isn’t still, we are not really practising yoga. In the words of āsana master B. K. S. 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.

  • Find new ways to breathe

Learning to control the breath is a whole world of yoga often skipped over fairly quickly in most yoga classes, but even ujjāyī breath, also known as victorious breath, can be challenging if you perpetually suffer from blocked nostrils. Fear not though, dear friends, there is a solution: it’s called a neti pot. Even without a cold, doing neti every now and again can be a great way to keep the airways clear and the energy flowing.

  • Rewire your brain

This isn’t as alarming as it sounds. One reason yoga makes us feel so good is that we move our body in new and interesting ways. All that bending and twisting helps to detoxify the body, speeding up a sluggish digestion and enlivening the spine. Not only this but āsana can even retrain neurological pathways in the brain meaning yoga can literally change the way we think. And you thought you were just trying to touch your toes…

Taking Sauca Off The Mat

Rather than thinking of your practice on your mat as separate to your everyday life, try thinking of the bits in between practice as preparation for getting on the mat. Need more to get you started? Try these top tips.

  • Tidy up

When Albert Einstein said, “Out of clutter, find simplicity,” he wasn’t lying! Clean surroundings, be it in your car, at your desk or in your bedroom, make you feel better. Fact. They certainly help me feel more productive at work, and calmer at home.

  • I think, therefore I am

This is one of those tips easier said than done. Try starting off by just observing your thoughts and feelings as you practice your āsana, and then take the awareness with you into everyday life, especially when it comes to idle gossip or needless complaining. You can also consider reviewing the language you choose to use. Swearing might be an everyday part of your vocabulary, and I’m not here to say that’s wrong, but it’s good to hold an awareness that some people find it offensive, especially in the workplace (or yoga studio).

  • Try not to over-indulge

In a world where going for coffee is synonymous with going for cake, it’s easier to forget that some things are meant to be a treat. Try cutting back on just one of your indulgences, maybe just having dessert once a week, or saving that glass of wine for the weekend. As well as literally making you lighter, the self-discipline is a great way to boost confidence in yourself, which you can take back to the mat with you. Peacock Pose, anyone?

Taking Sauca From Here

What does living with purity mean to you? A pure mind, pure words, pure actions – you may feel excited to read those words, or may find yourself wondering where the fun comes in. Surely being pure all the time makes for a pretty boring life? What happens if we change the word boring to peaceful, does sauca sound more enticing now?

I’ve shared lots of different ways to practise sauca both on and off the mat, is there one which stands out to you? Or can you think of something even better? I’d love to know what you think.

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