You’ve spent 23 days cleaning your insides. Can you believe that? Your digestive tract is now like a water slide! And because of that, your skin is clearing (or clear!) your eyes are brightening (or bright!) your hair is shiny-ing (or shiny!) … just by changing your food and getting on your mat, every darn day. You have successfully created a routine, and even your BRAIN is clean. Sure you are still feeling emotions, but I bet the mood swings aren’t as drastic. And I bet the smiles outweigh the frowns.
In the ancient texts of yoga, there is a practice called sauca. Sauca literally means purity, cleanliness and clearness. So good job with the body, food and digestive sauca! Kidding aside, sauca is first of the niyamas on the eight limbed path of Ashtanga Yoga. (This topic is as expansive as the horizon, so I won’t go into great details about the eight limbs … you can come to teacher training for that! You are, however, on the path, you may just not know it yet …) Suffice it to say that sauca has very great and deliberate importance.
I like to think of sauca as a blank canvas. A clean slate. An open field. Space for creation. What we know about life is that it is very hard to create anything of significance on top of something else. Think of a house that has been run down, neglected, beat up, littered with trash and losing its structure. Would we just build over and around it? No. If we had the resources we needed, we would likely tear the whole thing down and start fresh. This makes perfect sense, don’t you think? And yet, we do not do this with our own bodies and minds. Instead, we pile on more without taking the time to scrape the lot so that we can use our resources wisely. Enter, the practice/niyama of sauca.
Sauca refers to purity of mind, speech and body. We all know that you can look super fab on the outside, but if you are a wreck in your heart and falling apart in your mind and cruel to the people around you, no amount of makeup, weight loss, designer handbags, expensive cars, big houses or big talk will make a difference. You are still a wreck in your heart and falling apart in your mind and cruel to the people around you with a whole bunch of stuff to (try to) hide it from everyone. The irony? People see through it all. Sooner or later, in whatever way, they start to back away.
This niyama is considered essential for happiness and general well-being. Anger, hatred, prejudice, greed, pride, fear, aggressive, passive aggressive, shaming, impatient or dominating communication, intolerance, negative thoughts … these things cause what the yogis refer to as “impurities of the intellect,” and according to these pretty dialed-in dudes, they are cleansed through the process of yoga — but not just poses. The poses help us get to the next level of “cleansing,” which is stillness. It is ONLY when we get still enough to listen that we are able to then clean out thought, or more professionally stated, inquire or self-examine. We cannot know ourselves if we are running around chasing the clock and chasing our tail all day. Busyness is an epidemic. We are not more important to others because we are busy. And we are not lazy if we are not busy. What a complete and total black hole of despair we have created with this busy culture! And in the meantime, we are losing our sense of self. When we sit quietly and practice mindfulness and meditate — or even just pray — we get still enough to listen and self examine. We stop talking and start listening. That is the third step of sauca.
“Sauca doesn’t lie beyond asana (poses) so much as it lies before it,” writes Emma Newlin. “If we turn up on our mats with a sense of aggression instead of ahimsa (non -violence), self-denial instead of satya (truthfulness), laziness instead of tapas (discipline or burning passion) and impurity instead of sauca (cleanliness), then we’re not likely to progress as positively throughout our sadhana (our practice).”
Sauca also calls for a cleanliness of surroundings. Home space, car space, office space. I am a very organized person and keep my spaces pretty clean and neat. Zen space for me is comforting. So my routines for cleanliness are ingrained. My children often tell me that they love how tidy I keep things because it helps them feel calm. And they know where their stuff is which keeps them from getting frustrated looking for something, extends the life of their toys and belongings and keeps them from panicking and freaking out in the mornings before school. That is a huge win. It’s more work for all of us to keep up with, no doubt. But the trade-off is immense — peace in a typical time of struggle.
Perhaps for the remaining days of your Indigo30, since you have most all of the routines down now, you can take a look around at your spaces and start to clean them out too. Clean out some junk drawers. Purge your closet. Organize your desk. Choose just one thing a day so you don’t get overwhelmed.
You know how to scrutinize the contents of your food — now do the same with the products in your home — household, personal care, pet care. If you took some personal inventory of all the things you slathered on your body each day, I bet you would freak out. Shampoo, conditioner, body soap, shaving cream. Toothpaste, face cleanser, face lotions, makeup. Hair detangler, volumizing mousse, hair spray, on and on with the hair products omg. Body lotion, perfume, deodorant. And don’t forget, you then dress yourself in clothing that has been washed in laundry soap, softener and sometimes bleach.
I could keep going. I haven’t even gotten to all the stuff you clean your house with. Listen, I’m not trying to get you to use fewer products or stuff — the idea of practicing sauca is to pay attention to what’s in what you use. Examine the contents for harsh chemicals. Your body has to work so much harder to deal with all of them. Emma Newlin uses a great example, one of simply eating an apple. “You may or may not know that apples have the highest amount of pesticides of all fruit, which is why it’s best to eat organic apples. If we eat an apple full of pesticides, our body has to detoxify and digest the impurities before being able to absorb the goodness of the apple.” What a shame!
And it’s really no different on your mat. If you come into class holding onto a whole bunch of negativity, it’s going to take a little while to burn through it all. And friends, I’m here to tell you, after 25 years of practicing, that some days, the fire isn’t stoked hot enough to burn through all the funk. But you get on your mat anyway, because some is better than none. Even if you have only 20 minutes — PRACTICE FOR 20 MINUTES. There is no apathy on a yoga mat. You get on it and you do the work, the work of purity of heart. Because you know that on the other side of that hour is a new perspective.
Zoom your lens out macro this week. Start looking at the bigger picture, the wide-angle of your life. Look and listen for what needs some attention, some sauca. Perhaps it’s your sock drawer, or perhaps it’s how you speak to your spouse when he/she isn’t meeting your expectations. Perhaps it’s your garage, or perhaps it’s a relationship that needs some clean up (a.k.a, you taking accountability for your role in it.) Whatever it is, on the path of the yogi, we stop, we breathe, we get present, we own who we are and how we are showing up in every situation, and then… we take action for what is right and good and clean and pure.
You’ve got this.