Today, we start a 5-part series on Niyamas which is sanskrit for “observances.” The five Niyamas are qualities to practice in our personal lives for not just the betterment of ourselves, but it also serves as a way to get closer to experiencing our authentic selves. The first Niyama is Saucha (pronounced “sowcha”) which means “purity.” I’ve heard people also define saucha as “cleanliness,” but I feel that purity is a much more accurate definition. Cleanliness generally refers to our outer bodies, decluttering our living spaces and anything on the outer parts of an object. Purity on the other hand, refers to cleanliness as well as something deeper. Purity can refer to one’s mind, one’s internal body systems, emotions, and even one’s soul.
“Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish,
and then the outside also will be clean.”
The scriptures are clear on the importance of having a pure heart:
“The way of the guilty is crooked,
but the conduct of the pure is upright.”
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
“The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”
1 Timothy 1:5
“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,”
1 Peter 1:22
So how does one practically practice Saucha?
PURITY OF THE BODY
Purity of the body includes cleansing techniques such as Jala Neti (also known as nasal irrigation), a short-term detox diet and fasting to get rid of any toxins that you have accumulated throughout a span of time. I think it goes without saying, that keeping the outside of your body (your skin) clean is also important, but without purifying the inside of your body from time to time, the toxin-buildup will start to come out through the pores of your body by creating odors and skin issues.
I started a modified intermittent fasting about a month ago. I eat for 8 hours, and for 16 hours, I fast. I also fast from solid foods once a month, but that’s more for spiritual reasons (which I will talk about towards the end of this blog). One of the reasons I started intermittent fasting is because I noticed that as a woman in her mid-40’s, I’ve been experiencing a change in my body composition. It is much easier to accumulate fat in my midsection, and I was finding myself feeling bloated more often than I wanted to admit. I have gotten a food allergy test before, and other than being lactose-sensitive, I don’t have any food allergies. I eat a plant-based diet, and for the past 5-6 months, I’ve been eating more of a vegan diet. I generally don’t eat a lot of junk food, but ever since I started my intermittent fasting, I don’t have junk food cravings. I feel a lot cleaner on the inside with less bloating, so it helps my mind to be more onboard with observing Saucha of the heart and mind.
PURITY OF THE HEART AND MIND
There are so many layers to the purity of the heart and mind, but for today, I will only focus on one aspect: Seeing the world through the eyes of a child.
Children are awesome. They laugh unapologetically when something is funny, they don’t hold back tears when something makes them sad, and they forgive quickly and literally forget what they were mad about. They’re able to live this way because they haven’t yet been tainted by the toxins of life. When they play, they are fully in that moment.
How great would our lives be if we were willing to let go of insecurities, bitterness and anything else which are preventing us from living a life of freedom to be in the moment without any cares and worries of the next minute? I know this is so much easier said than done, but God has blessed us with many ways of chipping off these layers that we build around ourselves that prevent our hearts and minds from experiencing complete purity. Some of the ways that I’ve personally utilized for heart and mind purification are counseling, yoga, (biblical) meditation, life coaching, and of course, reading the Bible and praying.
“Live as free men, but do not use your freedom to cover-up for evil; live as servants of God.”
1 Peter 2:16
PURITY OF THE SPIRIT
Purity of the Spirit can not be achieved by human effort. There is nothing we can physically do to obtain a pure spirit. This is only possible with Christ.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me.”
We don’t achieve purity from obeying the Word of God (as in, we can’t make ourselves pure); We become pure by the God’s grace and mercy. He purifies our spirit; however, in order to stay on the path of purity, we must live in obedience to God’s word (the Bible).
“How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word.”
Of course, there are so many other facets of Saucha that I did not cover in this blog because that could literally take an entire book to write about… but I hope you were able to at least get a glimpse of Saucha from a Christian Yogi’s perspective.