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A note on shaucha

 

Your mother always told you that cleanliness was next to godliness and Patanjali agrees. It turns out that your mother is a great yogi!

The word ‘ashtanga’, as many of you already know, means eight limbs. The limbs, as listed by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras, are Yama, Niyama, Asana (we recognise that one), Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. If you want to know what they all mean have a read of the ‘What Does Ashtanga Mean‘ article on our website.

The first two limbs (yama and niyama) each have five sub-limbs. Think of yama as being a set of morals and of niyama as being a set of personal observances (together they form a rough guide on living harmoniously with the world both inside and outside ourselves).

The first sub-limb of niyama is often the first one to become most pertinent in a class of sweaty students (and teachers for that matter).

Saucha can be translated as cleanliness or purity, and your mother was right; it is next to godliness.

I have seen and heard so many conversations (online and in the real world) between ashtanga yoga teachers about this subject. Ashtanga yoga is a sweaty practice and some people’s nostrils are more sensitive than others.

Guruji says:
* “There are two types of purification: bahir shaucha (external purification) and antah shaucha (internal purification).
* The first involves washing the body with red clay and water. By rubbing the body with clay, sweat and dirt are removed, and the body becomes soft and shiny.
* The second means viewing everything and every being as a friend, and treating all with affection (maitri). This means engaging the mind with the supreme feeling that all are our friends, and considering everything to be a reflection of God.”

We say:
* Please shower before you come to class in the morning.
* Please wear fresh clean clothes to class (as once you start to sweat in previously-sweated-in clothes they really start to smell; you may not notice this but everybody else does).
* Please air your wet yoga mat after class if possible and wash it regularly (if you sweat a lot then regularly means once a week).

Then, perhaps, you and all of your fellow students (who you now love due to your new-found maitri) might get that little bit closer to the eighth limb of ashtanga yoga: Samadhi (bliss).

Who said yoga philosophy was complicated.

 

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