It’s that time of year when we start thinking about spring cleaning – outside and in. Purification practices are one of the many things we can do if we want to live healthier lives. Shaucha – translated as purity or cleanliness – is the first of the five Niyamas, which are commitments we make to develop our capacities on the yogic path.
We can look at purification in a number of ways in order to understand its usefulness and significance in our lives; whether we consider ourselves yogis or not.
There are a wide range of methods of purification in the Ayurvedic and Yogic perspectives. Practices like Vastra Dhauti which involves swallowing a long string of cloth so that it can clean our stomach and esophagus (as we pull it back out again through the mouth) can seem unattractive, if not downright wacky.
But we don’t have to engage in extreme forms of purification to discover the benefits of a more pure or clean body and/or mind.
Eating whole, organic food can be considered a method of purification. By avoiding the toxins in non-organic and processed food, we are purifying our bodies. We might take our purification a step further and do a juice or herbal cleanse.
Panchakarma (literally, five actions) is an Ayurvedic purification practice recommended semi-annually. Keep in mind that detoxification requires energy, so you should be in relatively good health before embarking on a cleansing process.
Meditation can provide a space and context for powerful mental purification. However, anyone suffering from mental illness should get approval from their health care provider before embarking on any lengthy or in-depth meditation practices. Meditation can occasionally worsen mental health conditions, depending on the person and the condition.
Some purification methods are deceptively simple. Tratak, one of the Shatkarma (literally, six actions; Dhauti, mentioned earlier, is one of these cleansing practices too) involves gazing meditatively upon a candle flame for an extended period of time. It is suggested that this assists the practitioner in one-pointed awareness or concentration, thereby quieting and purifying the mind.
Finally, perhaps the most obvious application: Shaucha asks us to consider the cleanliness of our environment. Most of us have had the experience of a cluttered room making us feel cluttered inside, too. Whether it relates to body, mind or environment, purity and cleanliness can contribute to greater ease and enjoyment of life.
Which Shaucha practices do you think would contribute to your mind-body health?
Read our inspiring blog articles on a variety of topics related to yoga, mind-body health, wellness & living a more fulfilling life.