Practicing Saucha

Well, doesn’t writing this blog come at a significant time? Off the back of writing individual blogs for each of the five Yamas; the first first limb of yoga, Saucha is the very first of five Niyamas; the second limb of yoga.

I’m sure everyone can relate to this time in our lives being a full invitation to take a good look at our habits we have picked up along the way. Saucha translates to cleanliness, and it’s not only in relationship to washing our bodies and hands.

Hands up who has dealt with any grief about old, easy ways of living since this current state of lockdown? Life as we know it will never be the same – so it’s inevitable it will hit us at some stage, if it hasn’t already.

We have, as a collective, been asked to look at our hygiene and wash our hands for the length of time it takes to recite the alphabet. My initial thought was, “Seriously, don’t people wash their hands?” Then I realised how much I actually touch my face! Wow. I touch my face heaps. Well, I used to.

We have been given the opportunity to be in our living environment for an extended and unknown amount of time. Perhaps it’s an opportunity to have a look at what we have been hoarding, and perhaps do a double take at what we actually need?

Also, and what could possibly be the most unsettling, to actually deal with the state of our minds when there is little to distract us. What a silver lining if I ever saw one.

I don’t know about you, but after the fires here in Australia I felt more determined than ever to lighten our footprint on the glorious mother Earth. I feared for what we were leaving behind for our children, so much so, that for the first time I considered a sibling for Nahlo so he wouldn’t be alone with the mess we had left him. People were banding together. I was seeing change in conversations, an awareness rising.

Then straight after the fires came floods – if that wasn’t a statement from our dear mother urging those with the power to listen to the fact that climate change, at the very least, is a real possibility.

Change was happening.

2020 was a big year for many. I had a full plate and called my astrology aunty in New Zealand to look at my stars because I was feeling overwhelmed. The year ahead according to the stars was to be an emotional upheaval, so I scaled back. This simple ‘scaling back’ was a practice of Saucha. Clearing the to do lists and the mind with it. I suddenly felt freer as I gave myself permission to live more simply – a process that has been a practice of mine for years – giving my permission to choose rest over hustle.

Instead of so much work I prioritised my body, finding strength and stillness to help with the grief over the decline of my mother’s cognition. Strong Asana, dynamic breathing rhythms and a daily meditation practice took front and centre as a practice of Saucha – to clear my mind and to cultivate trust in this heartbreaking process.

As I moved through cupboards, clearing space enough for several donation runs to the op shop, I simultaneously felt space arise on all levels. Another simple practice of Saucha.

When all this overwhelm with Covid-19 started to take place, I felt strangely but fully excited. Was this the shake up the world needed on a global level to rise up? Was this an opportunity for me to go deeper into my cave?  

The week it all kicked off, was a week that my phone has never been such an extension of my arm. I could not stay away from it. I was half-heartedly following the rise in numbers, checking in with friends overseas when their countries hit the media. We had to cancel flights, as did my relatives who were coming to stay. The anticipation of what was going to happen was tense – what was our government going to do? Were we doing lock down or not? Somebody make a decision!!!! I could feel the screen time sending my brain into overdrive, as well as the addiction taking a toll on my energy. That pull the phone emanates when you put it down – it was so much stronger than I had ever experienced.

Keeping me balanced and non-reactive was a steady morning sitting practice. A steady early to bed night, every night. A super-early and natural wake up where I move into our living area and onto a permanent cushion and blanket to sit in the darkness, eyes like slits, belly softly jutting out, jaw relaxed away from the skull after obvious clenching from the previous day. This is my medicine. Even when I don’t feel like it, I do it because I know what happens when I don’t – and it’s not pretty. Years of practice with avoidance versus gentle determination have taught me enough to even get to that cushion – especially when I’m doing my best to get in the way of myself. This is the practice of Saucha. Clearing away the fog, the drab and the doubt to replace them with clarity and a trust in all of these painful processes.

This practice of Saucha brings our awareness to the patterns that hold us back and beat us down and give us the opportunity to carve new ways, beliefs and perceptions, ones that benefit ourselves and everyone that resides close to us. The deepest kind of faith is born and becomes unshakable. This ripples out and through us and benefits all living beings.

On Sunday the 22nd of March, just before the exact time that thousands of jobs were lost, countless businesses had to shut down, entire lives were violently redirected without warning, a huge grieving process took place as the entire nation went into full blown survival mode, I became bedridden – a swift and prompt warning sign to step back from the chaos and reconnect to ritual and calm.

I pulled out my Neti pot and commenced a daily practice of Jala Neti – cleansing my aggravated sinuses with filtered water and Celtic salt. I added oil pulling back into my daily ritual and Kapalabhati came back, front and centre, to strengthen my digestion – not just of food, but of my emotions and thought processes. Within 24 hours I was back to 100%. This is the power of Saucha.

When all that was being talked about was Covid-19, all I had to do was turn to my son and be present with him. Letting him lead in times when I felt confused and overwhelmed was possibly the most subtle but effective practice of Saucha. Because anything that strengthens our resolve to release old and toxic habits – actions, thoughts and words – to replace them with a life that is gentle, positive, unclouded, simple and clear, is an accomplished practice of Saucha.

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