The Niyamas: Saucha

By Sydney Humphrey

The yamas and niyamas are ethical and moral guidelines outlined in classical yoga philosophy, particularly in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. This is a foundational yogic text that provides a comprehensive approach to practicing and embodying all the limbs of yoga. The yamas and niyamas are the first two limbs and aim to help us cultivate a balanced and harmonious life.

Saucha is the first niyama, or yogic observance or guideline, in yogic teachings. Saucha (sometimes seen as “shaucha”) can be translated from sanskrit to mean “purity” or “cleanliness.” This extends beyond just physical cleanliness, but also includes cleanliness in your environment, your mental state, and your daily approach to life.
In this context, adhering to saucha involves not only maintaining personal hygiene but also cultivating a sense of mental and emotional clarity. This may include purifying one’s thoughts, emotions, and intentions. The goal with observing saucha is to improve overall well-being and encourage spiritual growth.
Note that throughout this post we will refer to “purity” or the sense of something being “pure” and these terms can be a bit loaded. Each person will attach different meanings to these terms, but for our purposes we are referring to the idea of something being “pure” or “clean” as in without distractions and/or clutter that can detract from fully being with each moment as it is.

*We already did a run down of all the yamas, or yogic restraints– Read about them all here.

How you may see this on your mat:

Bringing saucha into your life through your physical yoga asana practice is a beautiful place to start. As always, yoga classes offer finite time and space to be really mindful of any new concepts you would like to integrate, if you choose to focus on saucha here are a few ways to do that.

You can practice saucha on your mat by:

Taking care of your space.

As you prepare your space for practice, take a few moments to be mindful of your set up. Perhaps you begin by cleaning your mat. Place props such as yoga blocks in a space where they are accessible, and not causing haphazard clutter around you. As the flow gets going and perhaps you lose some layers of clothing, place those items out of your physical way and out of the way for others around you. In yoga classes, you may feel that the space you have is fairly small, but you can still take care of it to keep it clean.

Taking care of your body.

Practicing physical hygiene that allows you to feel clean and pure in your own skin as you go through a yoga asana class is a beautiful way to practice saucha. Likely, you’ve heard some iteration of the saying “Your body is a temple” and taking care of those hygienic needs is a small, but important way to honor your physical vessel.

Practicing mental clarity.

Practice keeping your focus on your body and finding peace with what is happening in your own particular practice at the moment. Notice when your mind starts to wander with distractions or expectations. This is totally normal, and give yourself grace, but the more you notice when it’s happening and practice nudging your mind away from the distractions or “mental clutter”, the less frequently it will happen. This focus and acceptance of things as they are helps you to keep your practice “pure”.

How you may see this off your mat:

Practicing saucha off the mat can help to simplify and bring clarity to your life. Allow yourself to start with small and sustainable steps.

You practice saucha off your mat and in the world by:

Taking care of your physical hygiene.

Cultivate healthy, respectful connections that support your well-being and personal growth. Notice if your energy level feels drained or bolstered after your interactions with someone. Focus on creating a healthy balance for your energy and prioritizing relationships that leave you feeling connected and fulfilled rather than drained and lonely.

Cleaning and clearing your physical surroundings.

Keep the spaces where you live, work, relax, enjoy life clean and free of distracting clutter. Practice regular cleaning and bring order to your environment to bring in a sense of purity for your surroundings. This sense of purity can likewise help the mind to feel more at ease and free of distractions.

Being mindful of what you bring into your body.

Each person’s diet is completely unique and should be catered to their specific needs. As you think about your needs, consider what foods feel “pure” or “clean” to you. Perhaps that means bringing in more whole foods and foods with less preservatives. Perhaps that means focusing on foods that bring you energy and make you feel bright and ready to go, rather than foods that make you feel sluggish and slow. Again, this is your body and you know/are learning what is best for it– being mindful of what you consume is a key way to practice saucha.

Invite cleansing practices into your routine.

Now, this tip may sound a little general or vague, and that is because this may look different for each person. Cleansing practices can be defined as “any ritual that helps you purify your body, mind, or spirit”. A little general, right? Maybe think about it this way: you know the feeling you get after taking a deep breath? That moment of release and perhaps a bit of peace? A cleansing practice can be anything that brings that sense of release to you. You can do this through meditation, journaling, routine cleaning of your physical surroundings, taking a prolonged bath or sauna or cold plunge, taking breaks from time on social media, or a number of other releasing practices. Explore and find a cleansing routine that brings that ahhhh sense of peace and purity to your system.


Affirmations connected to saucha:

Affirmations are an incredibly helpful tool for positive self-talk and helping to reframe your thoughts. Add in these purity affirmations to invite more awareness of saucha into your daily life.

Because saucha looks different in all aspects of our life– environmentally, physically, spiritually, mentally– these affirmations are varied and will relate to those different aspects.

Here are a few saucha-focused affirmations you can incorporate into your self-talk:

  • I honor my body by keeping it clean and healthy
  • Keeping my environment clean serves a higher purpose
  • I am mindful about what I consume and choose what nourishes me
  • My mind is calm; I am at peace with what is
  • I release toxic thoughts that do not serve me

Use these affirmations just as they are or adjust them to resonate more with you.

Food for thought:

Use the following journal prompts to help you reflect on saucha in your life. Allow yourself to respond honestly and without judgment. These writing exercises are a tool for mindfulness and reflection– do your best to release any pressure to be perfect.

  • Consider the physical spaces you typically work, live, and relax in. How could you incorporate more overall cleanliness into these spaces?
  • How does the energy feel in these spaces? How could you purify that energy?
  • Explore your habits related to food, media, and other forms of consumption. Are there areas of excess that you would like to “clean” up?
  • How can you make more mindful choices in those areas?
  • Reflect on how you currently prioritize physical cleanliness in your daily routine. Are there any habits or practices related to personal hygiene that you would like to improve or reassess? How does your physical cleanliness impact your overall well-being?
  • How can be more at peace with each moment of life as it is rather than cluttering the moment with expectations, criticism, or resistance?

Resources to look into further:

If you are interested in delving into this topic a little deeper, you can check out these resources:

    • Book- The Yamas & Niyamas: Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice by Deborah Adele
    • Book- The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

AND we would love to see you in class on Saturday, February 3rd at 9 am!  Audrey will be leading a Mindful Vinyasa Flow focused on Saucha.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.

You have Successfully Subscribed!