“When you express ‘purity’, which is the truth about yourself, you feel a love for yourself that is expressed by self-respect, self-esteem, and self-confidence!” ~~ Tae Yun Kim
(I got this pic from here)
Many of us here in the West come to yoga to practice the postures (asanas), using them to get our bodies into shape, both mentally and physically. While this is a wonderful thing, practicing the asanas is only one small part of the discipline of yoga.
In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, we learn that yoga is actually made up of eight limbs (called ashtanga). These limbs act as guidelines on how to live a meaningful and purposeful life. Asana is actually the third limb on the eightfold path.
Over the coming months, I’d like to begin exploring all the limbs with you, so that you can begin to understand the more holistic effects yoga can have on your life. However, I won’t necessarily be covering everything “in order”. As I explore my own journey on the path of yoga, various aspects of the eight limbs resonate with me more strongly than others, depending on what I am dealing with in my life.
This week, I’d like to focus on the second limb, which is Niyama. This limb has to do with self-discipline and spiritual observances, and there are a total of five niyamas Patanjali says we need to develop. It is the first of the niyamas that I’d like to hone in on this week, which is called saucha. Saucha means “cleanliness” or “purity”.
This concept of cleanliness and purity has been resonating with me a lot lately, but especially in this past week. As many of you know, I’ve been dealing with some medical issues for quite some time. For almost two months now, I’ve been on a medically-supervised diet, where I’ve had to eliminate gluten/wheat, dairy, and sugar. It’s been much easier than I thought it would be, I have to say. However, with the holiday and summer festivities I attended this past week, it was very difficult for me to stay away from some of those things. I have to admit that I indulged in a couple of desserts and appetizers which contained all the things I am not supposed to be eating. They sure tasted good, but let me tell you…I felt HORRIBLE the next day. My stomach was a mess, I felt sluggish, my head hurt. Yuck! Basically, my body was responding to “dirty” food. Because I’ve been “clean” for so long, my body knows now what feeling good really feels like. So when I introduced processed junk back in, even for just a day, my body reacted and let me know that it was NOT pleased.
On a more spiritual level, I’ve really come into my own in many ways these past few months. Dealing with a variety of obstacles, both good and bad, has taught me a lot about myself. Some of these obstacles had to do with my health, some with my job, some with my family. At times, it felt like I was being bombarded, but God never gives you more than you can handle. And I learned that I can handle a lot, and I really had to dig down deep and make some hard decisions in a few areas. I’ve always been a rather wishy-washy person, especially if I feel I might hurt someone’s feelings by telling them what I REALLY think. I’m a total confrontation avoider. But not anymore. I really do feel like I know who I am now…at least 95%, anyway. 🙂 And this feeling of knowing who I am has really boosted my confidence, and I am starting to be a bit more aggressive in pursuing the things that matter most to me.
What about you? What areas in your life can you work on to improve the purity of your mind and body? In class this week, we’ll use the asana limb of yoga to help us improve our saucha…we’ll do this by exploring twisting poses and backbends. Twists are wonderful, as they are known to help rid the body of toxins. And backbends are known to be energizing and heart-opening, which I feel is very helpful at helping with improving our thoughts about ourselves. My hope is that you’ll walk away feeling a bit “cleaner” in both body and soul.