Today’s post is all about the yoga of personal hygiene. Timely.
Saucha is the principle of cleanliness or purity. It is the first of 5 niyama (personal observances) that a yogi adopts as part of their practice.
The ancient yogis regarded the body as something rather disgusting - a big skin sack filled with bodily fluids (urine, saliva, feces, mucus, etc) And they were not wrong. You ARE that, and it IS kind of gross when you stop and think about it . Hence early yoga’s obsession with purity and cleanliness. Let’s also keep in mind that yoga pre-dates public sanitation, indoor plumbing, the invention of sterilization, hand sanitizer and other modern hygienic conveniences. So, yeah, things probably got a little gross and yogis got inventive about how to protect their health.
Even the greeting ‘namaste’ is a hygienic, hands-off choice for saying hello that people around the world are now being urged to adopt in lieu of handshaking, hugging and air kissing. Yoga just keeps coming at us with winning life hacks! As far as yogic hygiene practices go, contactless greetings are at the tame end of the spectrum. If we delve into a later text, The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, things start to get a little weird. This text provides clues as to just how important purifying is to practice, laying out some very INTENSE cleansing rituals in detail:
•Swallowing rags to clean the stomach
•nasal cleansing with thread, water, milk...
Just to name a few.
Why the obsession with cleanliness?
Because clean, hygenic living supports optimal functioning of your body. If you take care of yourself, you are less likely to suffer from sickness and disease, which are major road blocks on the path to liberation.
Here are some ways to play with saucha on and off your mat:
Intention: ‘I make healthy choices’
Supportive Breath: kapalabhati. Swipe for video. Do 1-3 rounds of 7-10 breaths. Keep a box of kleenex nearby.
On the Mat: Incorporate pranayamas and abdominal massage, nauli kriya
Off the Mat: eat clean, get some physical exercise, breathe deeply, take a shower, greet people with ‘namaste’ and keep your hands clean.
Amanda Tripp, Yoga/body nerd and woman of a 1000 opinions