I love the idea of pairing the Yamas and the Niyamas together as we explore the repurcussions of putting these concepts into imperfect practice in our daily lives.
It’s a powerful way to take your yoga practice beyond the mat and, if you’re like me, it’s something that you continually circle back to, refining and honing until the concepts crystallize and reverberate in your world.
The Yoga Sutras introduce us to these concepts of “right living,” or yamas, and “self-discipline,” or niyamas. There are 5 of each, and we began exploring two – Santosha and Aparigraha – in our last post.
The Yamas The Niyamas
Ahimsa – Non-Violence Saucha – Purification
Satya – Truthfullness Santosha – Contentment
Asteya – Not Stealing Tapas – Self-Discipline
Bramacharya – Conserving Vital Life Energy Svadyaya – Self Study
Aparigraha – Not Coveting Ishvara Pranidhana – Devotion
These concepts lay the groundwork of a yoga practice. Some even argue that their practice comes before your asana, or postural practice on the mat. I have found the yamas and the niyamas to contain layers of meaning, and when I perfect one, another reveals itself for me to work on.
Today we explore the twin concepts of Satya and Saucha –
Truthfullness and Cleanliness.
Truth, on it’s surface, seems simple. In reality, we live in a time and place where people frequently tell “white lies” to spare somebody’s feelings or not reveal information. In fact, it was recently discovered that Americans tell one to two lies per day!
What I’ve realized as I grow older is that the people I value most in my life are the ones who are confident enough to share a hard truth. I, like you, am committed to growth and connecting with my sacred self. Like you, I want to radiantly shine my inner light, and I believe that I can best do this by getting out of my own way!
I’ve been blessed with some hard lessons in my life, and one is that I found myself in past relationships with people who were allergic to the truth. There were friends who used lies to cover up the effects of addiction – the hungover mornings and responsibilities left undone explained away, and there were others who were not fully honest because they believed that put them at a material disadvantage in social structures or in business. Many times, I was asked to participate in perpetuating a dishonesty. Sometimes I complied, more often, I did not.
What I learned about myself in those moments is:
- I’m an awful liar. My tone of voice changes and I get a queer set to my mouth is a dead giveaway.
- It’s too much trouble to remember and keep track of the false details.
- My body held the untruths
This last truth, for me, is why I consistently strive to be a voice of radical truth in my family, friends, and business dealings. When I lie by statement or omission, the energy of the untruth stores in my body and causes dis-ease which, when built up over time, can lead to disease.
Studies done in 2010 and 2016 found that lying changes the brain by desensitizing the amygdala, the part of our brain which processes emotional responses, along with memory and decision making. As the amygdala is desensitized, the person begins to lie out of habit rather than to achieve a result, and thus is born a pathological liar.
In this moment, I want to invite you to step into a position of radical truth.
Make a commitment to speak the truth, kindly and compassionately. Walk easy in the world and shed light where there is darkness. You might be surprised at the weight that is lifted, at the tensions that are eased.
So how does this pair with the concept of Saucha, or cleanliness? As we clean up our language and live in integrity and alignment, excess baggage begins to fall away from us and we walk through the world more freely. We’re also able to take another brick off of our karmic scale, which brings us one step closer to our sacred selves.
Cleanliness too has layers.
For example when I was younger, “clean” meant that household surfaces were clear of excess items, not necessarily clean themselves. As I got older, clean meant clean linens but not clean floors, or clean floors but dusty corners.
When I spend a busy weekend in teacher training or offering yoga workshops, my poor home is often neglected. The white floors become spotted with cereal crumbles and the toys pile up – a jumble of Peppa Pig friends, Moana figurines, legos, and farm animals.
When I’m able to organize everything in it’s place, open the windows and run my diffuser or burn some incense, I feel a sense of ease. My shoulders can relax and I can enjoy the free-flowing energy in my home. I love the smell of a just-cleaned floor and just washed laundry. It inspires me to fill my home with more smells of fresh baked food and to get creative in my yoga practice.
Saucha and body cleanliness
Traditional yogis have some interesting practices to achieve this goal. The neti pot has gained commercial success in recent years as people begin to realize it’s effectiveness for maintaining colds and allergies. Other, more obscure practices have yet to (or may never) catch on in the West.
For many, the practice of Saucha encompasses diet. There is a movement to go back to eating like our ancestors – more fresh fruits and vegetables with less emphasis on meat and processed foods. People often report feeling lighter, freer, and cleaner when adopting this diet.
But Saucha can be even simpler than that – it can be showering daily, brushing and flossing your teeth, and wearing clean, ironed clothes. As a mom friend shared with her girls recently, these simple tasks are easy to do, but skipping them can have profound consequences.
And that, my friend, is the gist of all this rambling. Find your best way to express your truth and to keep your body and environment clean. As those simple things fall into alignment, I do believe you will see larger shifts as well.
I’m interested in your thoughts. Please share your experience in the comments!