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 are “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
I think about sun salutations as cleansing. I imagine myself on a beach with waves in the background or in a beautiful meadow. The matching of the breath and movement so integral to a sun salutation helps me to feel like I have reset or “cleansed”. I think the same feeling can be invoked with half sun salutations as well. I like to channel the ocean by coming onto tip toes and “waving” over to plank and then undulate back like a rolling receding 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.
We have talked about safe practice of this series in class often. Injuries can happen especially when we move through them mechanically or too swiftly and sloppily. 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. If it feels better, lower knees to the floor.
Keep elbows in close to body
Below is a link to an article I really like about practicing chaturanga 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 – Clean Eating with Vegan Pho
I have been on a pho kick for the last few weeks. Have had it out or to go from several local restaurants, had it in Orlando when I was there for a conference, and Peter made it. This is one of my personal go to recipes from the blog (easy); if we are thinking “clean” or saucha, clean eating could be part of that practice.
There are many definitions of what is considered clean eating, for me it is a vegan diet with no processed foods, lots of vegetables, whole grains, whole fruits, and healthy fats. I try to eliminate sugar and alcohol, the latter sometimes a challenge. If I do imbibe, and I was staying clean, it would be tequila (no sugar) with a squeeze of fresh lime juice, maybe a splash of seltzer. Your own personal definition of clean eating applies! It is what makes you feel the best, fueling you for good energy and feeling strong.
My recipe is an easy version for when I am cooking alone. Peter has one that is a bit more authentic, and I will encourage him to share that one soon.
Interesting article from Harvard University on this topic:
Hope you enjoy the Pho! Here is the recipe link:
See you on the mat!