Sauca is the first of the five niyama. It means “purity” or “cleanliness”. The niyama are guidelines for personal behavior and observances laid out in the Yoga Sutra. The yama and niyama are like foundation stones for a practice (they are the first two limbs of yoga!) so it is very important for a student of yoga to observe them.
This week I have thought a lot about Sauca. For a number of reasons, I have not been waking up at 5:30 and rushing up the road for Mysore practice. Instead, this week I have been doing Led Primary or Ashtanga Improv or Prep classes mid-morning or afternoon. It’s been really fun and a nice change of pace from the austerity and silence of Mysore. I love morning, I really do, but sometimes I’m just not feeling the 5:30 wake-up. Boyfriend Yogi teases me on those mornings. He’s up brushing his teeth, washing his face while I’m still groaning in bed, hiding my head under the pillows. His most effective way to get me out of bed is to chide me with a comment like, “Maybe this kind of yoga requires more Tapas than you can muster, perhaps some Shiva Rea might be better for you?” That tends to get me up real quick. Anyways, Tapas aside, today we are talking about Sauca.
Since I’ve had a week of leisurely mornings, I’ve had more time to focus on my beloved rituals of cleanliness! Sauca requires cleansing practices internally and externally, physically and mentally/emotionally. Not only does it mean keeping a clean body but it means thinking pure, clean thoughts. On the physical level there are many methods to practice Sauca. Diet is very important. Eating clean, healthy Sattvic foods is essential, as is abstaining from toxins such as alcohol and drugs. Practicing asana and pranayama (the 3rd and 4th limbs) purifies the body greatly. As explicated by B. K. S. Iyengar in Light on Yoga, “The practice of asanas tones the entire body and removes the toxins and impurities caused by over-indulgence. Pranayama cleanses and aerates the lungs, oxygenates the blood and purifies the nerves”.
There are many simple time-tested practices for Sauca that anyone can do to improve his or her health. Cleaning oneself can become a ritual and have an element of sacredness to it. I once read somewhere that one should try to make every action into a prayer. Ritually cleansing oneself is a traditional practice in most religious spheres, so why not bring this ancient tradition into your daily life, to prepare yourself for the sacred act of living!
Here’s a list of the practices I do before yoga each morning:
Tongue Scraping! Seems a bit weird at first, but it makes a lot of sense. It removes all the gunk that has accumulated while you sleep. The tongue has major eliminating functions and this practice of tongue scraping helps detox the body in a big way. I brush my teeth first and then scrape. Apparently it really helps if you have bad breath. You can get metal tongue scrapers imported from India at some health foods stores.
Neti Pot! This is a great practice to clear nasal and sinus congestion. It provides a lot of relief from colds, the flu and allergies. Yogi Boyfriend neti pots everyday and really believes it has healed him of his seasonal allergies. Use warm water and sea salt and be patient! It’s a little odd at first and sometimes can sting a bit. It’s a bit much for me so I only neti pot a few times a week except if I have a cold and then I do it twice a day. You can buy Neti Pots at most health food stores. Any old sea salt will do. Don’t get conned in to buying something special.
Dry Brushing! I LOVE dry brushing. It is so energizing. Use a dry bristle brush over the whole body before a shower. It’s exfoliating and majorly detoxing. Always brush in circular motions and work your way towards the heart. I always start with my feet and then work my way up. It’s great for improving skin tone too, it’s even known to help decrease cellulite.
Cold Showers! You might think I’m looney tunes but I totally love my freezing cold showers, even in January. I’ve taken some crazy cold ones too, like in Minnesota in December or at this cabin on a mountain pass at 11,000 feet in Colorado – crazy numbing cold, but soooo invigorating!!! I started taking cold showers because it a common practice in Kundalini Yoga to prepare for Sadhana (at 4:30 am – brutal!). It flushes all the blood through your body, cleansing you inside and out. This practice benefits the immune system immensely. Make sure to scrub your armpits in the cold shower, it helps move lymph. I normally don’t get my hair wet but I do stand for a moment with the water pounding down on my third eye. After a cold shower you get out and all the capillaries open up, the blood rushes through your body and you feel warm and tingly. It’s an amazing way to start the day. Don’t be afraid – Do it! Here’s the trick, oil up! I learned this from the Sikhs too. Rub almond oil (or avocado, or sesame – great for the joints!) all over your body before the cold shower, that way the water pearls off your body. Your skin will feel so soft and look so radiant if you practice cold showers with oil regularly. The only time to avoid cold showering is if you have the flu or if you are on your moon, ladies. At those times, take luke-warm showers in the morning and then hot showers in the evening.
My favorite oil to use is called Mother’s Special Blend. It’s made in Boulder.
Sometimes I use this almond oil and it’s lovely and light:
Let me know how the cold showers go!!! Enjoy taking care of your body.