The first of the niyamas, our external observances, is saucha. Saucha is cleanliness or purity. In yoga, we always talk about a wholeness of body, mind, and soul, and the yamas and the niyamas are meant to be applied in this way. So we are not just discussing the cleanliness or purity of your physical body, but of your mind a spiritual soul.
Have you tracked your thoughts before? Have you thought mindfully about the patterns of thought that course through your mind throughout the day? Are they negative? Positive? Judgmental? Compassionate? Thoughtful? WE are the first people who hear our thoughts…not the guy on the corner with an unemployed sign. WE are the ones who put into motion the karmic goodies we get back, so why not make them good? The energy of our thoughts have the power to bring to us what we perceive the world to be. If we put energy into negative things, then it makes sense that these are the things we will bring to us. For example, if I were to continually think that I am incapable of anything and that I am not worth love, then I will never get the love that I need and crave, and I will not be capable of bringing those things into my life. Have you ever smiled at a stranger? They usually smile back right? It is the same concept, positivity is infectious, same as negativity. Bring to you what you want, not what you don’t want, and this starts with the mind. It is a very powerful organ, and works with your heart, so start your transformation from there, and move out.
Saucha also is applied to your physical body. In a cliché way of saying it, we are what we eat. Right, so, if we are eating foods high in sodium, fat, cholesterol, chemicals you know are not natural to the food, it is safe to say you will not be nutritionally balanced. You will gain weight, your sleep patterns may change, your skin, hair, and nails will not look healthy, and so many other side effects. Now, if you eat nutritionally balanced, whole foods, then your body will reflect that. Your body will look healthy, young, and you will age with grace. Pretend your body is a car. If you put the wrong oil in it, don’t keep up on the maintenance (exercise), and use the wrong gas, it will break down. You will have to spend a lot of money to fix it, or get a new one. In the case of our bodies, we cannot get a new one, but an estimated $153 billion dollars are spent every year just because of unhealthy lifestyles! You can see the data here. We could solve the unemployment issues in the USA with that much money. We could lower the cost of college tuition (totally sore subject for me) and raise the employment opportunities for college graduates. We could put the money into REFORMED social bills and programs to help (drug free, willing to work) individuals have better opportunities. Heck, we could put the money into the foster care system to aid those children who are put in horrible, dangerous situations because there isn’t enough government money. You can see the list could go on and on and on and on. SO, what does this have to do with saucha? By eating cleanly, and eating whole foods, and by supporting our local farmers by buying locally, we are taking care of our bodies mindfully. As you can see, something as simple as being mindful about our physical bodies has a ripple effect into so many other areas of our lives. Eat cleanly. No, this doesn’t mean you HAVE to become a vegan or a vegetarian, but you could. It means eat organically, mindfully, wholly. Your body will thank you first, and if the rest of the world did so too, then the economy will thank you.
In addition to the benefits cleanliness and purity of body and mind described in the previous sutra (2.40), there are additional benefits. Purification of the mental essence, or sattva. Pleasantness, joyfulness, cheerfulness, which can lead to contentedness. Focus and intentness. Mastery over the senses, which is a big one in the entire yogic philosophy. You also become more fit, mentally and physically, for Self-realization and closer to reaching samadhi. Its a ripple effect, starting with your body, your mind, and then leading you to a path of joyful contentedness, and working towards enlightenment. Treat your body as your best friend, your lover. It is what you have to express your YOUNESS. Love it, care for it, enjoy it, and the benefits are immeasurable.