Over the past 5 weeks we have explored the 5 Yamas, the Yamas being the first limb of yoga as discussed in the ancient text, Yoga Sutras by Patanjali. The Yamas were “rules of the road” or guidelines for ethical and moral conduct. The second limb, the Niyamas, are more inward looking and are directed toward self. We can think of them as positive duties or self care.
The first Niyama is Saucha or cleanliness. Taken simply, it can be thought of as good hygiene and self-care. Applying saucha to mind, body, and speech we broaden the application. When speaking, perhaps try to avoid hurtful words or gossip, keeping our words “clean” from negativity. In terms of our minds, perhaps working to keep thoughts positive and clear. We may have developed habits that no longer serve us, cleaning these from our lives would be practicing saucha. Let’s try to practice saucha each in our own way this week. Maybe you start by cleaning out your desk or bureau; alternatively, you may be motivated to try not to say one negative thing for a whole day. When we come to our mats perhaps practice saucha by leaving self-deprecating thoughts at the door and invite a joyful practice cleaned of self-directed negativity to flow.
This photo was taken in Devprayag where the two holy rivers Alaknanda and Bhagirathi meet to form the Ganga. According to ancient writings, this is one of the five important holy confluences. When we were there a Hindu Priest prayed and blessed us as we dipped in this holy river. Certainly a "cleansing" experience both physically and spiritually.
Meditation on Saucha
“There is a strange glow on the face of a guileless person. Inner cleanliness has its own soap and water – the soap of strong faith and the water of constant practice.” – Sri Sathya Sai Baba
Sri Sathya Sai Baba was an Indian guru. The Sathya Sai Organization which he founded has over 1,200 centers in 126 countries. They have established a network of free hospitals, clinics, drinking water projects, ashrams and other educational facilities. For more on his life and work see link below.
Our Practice – Sun Salutations to Channel Saucha – Suraya Namaskar A
As I was thinking about saucha, cleanliness, I wondered what pose we could focus on to embody that. I happened to be talking to my YTT instructor, and friend, Coral Brown as I was working on this. I told her how challenging I found this exercise to be, finding ways to bring the 8 limbs alive in the practice, and how I had found inspiration in her work. She suggested that I stop “searching my texts” for the answer and think about what I felt. Immediately I thought of a sun salutation. Full disclosure, I pictured a sun salutation, at the beach, with the waves in the background. In class sometimes I like to channel the ocean by coming onto tip toes and “waving” over to plank and then undulate back like a rolling wave. This is what I thought about when I was thinking about saucha.
Most vinyasa flow yoga classes begin the standing portion of class with one of the sun salutations. The Sanskrit word surya means sun and namaskar means salutations or bow down. Essentially, this is a series of poses to honor the sun which brings energy and light; the poses awaken the body and are traditionally practiced early in the morning facing east.
I know I find myself sometimes moving through them mechanically. A beginner may find them very challenging as they move quickly, and for a yogi with a full practice they can be sloppy and a catalyst for injury. I will spend some time this week in class focusing on this sequence.
A few things to consider:
Corkscrew the hands into the mat and grip with fingers to relieve some wrist pressure.
Keep a gentle bend in the knees, no locking or hyperextension.
Common yogi cue is to externally rotate the arms moving eyes of the elbows toward front of mat. Your body may call for a bit of inward rotation for shoulder comfort, experiment.
In chaturanga only lower so elbows are just above shoulder line. Your elbows should not be higher than shoulders, at most perfectly in line in a 90-degree angle inside elbow.
Keep elbows in close to body
Below is a link to an article I really like about practicing chataranga safely.
Find here a link to a short practice exploring sun salutations by Adrienne Mishler – I like her approachable and practical style.
Nurturing with Food – Cold Noodles with Sesame Sauce
I did not have a good new recipe to share this week, so I thought about what would be a good wintry one to revisit. I love cold noodles with sesame sauce, the creaminess of the dressing and the little bite of spice, perfect for a winter meal.
You likely remember that this recipe is one of my husband, Peter’s. For those of you who have enjoyed sesame noodles in Asian restaurants, this recipe takes all the best aspects of them and tops it! If they are not liquidy enough for you (they can sometimes be a little pasty), I suggest thinning the dressing out further with additional tea and soy sauce). I have had these in many restaurants in NY, the best, I think, are at Green Bo at 66 Bayard (Chinatown) – if you are not dining at my house.
See you on the mat