Saucha is the first element of the Niyamas, the personal practices one must observe as described in the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali.
Saucha means purity, cleanliness - inside and outside.
Saucha can be applied on the physical plane: whether placing your yoga mat in a straight line in class, keeping a clean work desk, or maintaining personal hygiene. Saucha can be applied to your emotional and spiritual well-being, whereby you unclutter harmful patterns of thinking that can harm to yourself or others.
There is a mutual connection between the two, whether body and mind, or the physical and the spiritual. As they are connected one effects the other and the both harm and good can move in both directions. One mindful effort on one plane, physical or mental, can become the tiny pebble you throw in the lake, creating waves that spread throughout. One positive act can impact your entire being, setting a new dynamic, giving you the appetite to do more. One positive act can shift your entire life.
It is not about chasing perfection and ultimate cleanliness. It is about placing your attention on the task at hand and about respect for yourself and those around you. It leads to inner joy and calmness.
Approach everything with Saucha. Start with the small tangible things, and you will find it creates more room and space in your environment and life. You will extend it to other areas. It will become the way you live your life, deliberately taking care of things and feeling responsibility. By implementing Saucha, you cultivate awareness to every present moment, because every moment matters.
Think about a yoga class. You are on the mat and the teacher asks you to take a yoga block and place it on the mat. You can grab and place the block mindlessly, without any attention. No big deal, a harmless action.
You can also take the other approach. You pay attention to how you hold the block between your hands, where you place it on the mat, with respect. You carry this respect in every moment of your practice. You cultivate a present awareness to your body’s sensations, matching your movements with your breath and matching your internal feeling with the external environment. You respect your fellow practitioners. You respect yourself, knowing your boundaries and how to honor your edge. You stay safe, but reach your limits. You reap the maximum benefits from your practice.
Living with Saucha in your everyday life
The question here is not only how you approach things but how consistent are you in your approach. Are there areas in your life where you are fully aware and responsible practicing saucha? Are there other areas where you lack of it?
Consistency in applying Saucha enables the development of strong positive habitual patterns which enable you to create order in your life. I once convinced a close friend of mine that properly sealing the pickle jar in his fridge hermetically every time he ate pickles would improve his ability to close business deals. My friend had a habit of grabbing a pickle and haphazardly replacing the cover. It may sound insane, but it worked. He was more aware of every action and every detail. He became more focused on completing every action to the best of his ability. He learned how to become a “closer”. He learned how to direct his energy and mind in the right direction, in all aspects of his life, whether closing pickle jars or business deals.