In the 8 limbs of yoga guidelines,

the second guideline is Niyama – meaning observance – and it refers to cultivation of values and virtues in life. Niyama is divided into five and the first observance is called Saucha.

The texts say that Saucha is purity of thoughts and words, which leads to purity of the body, which attracts energy to perform actions that do not have gunas embedded in them.

To me, purity of thoughts and words, means to not spend time on all the ego activities our minds normally gets up to – like judging, blaming and criticizing ourselves and others.

Personally, I find it very hard to completely keep these thoughts out of my mind. For example when I meet someone for the first time, I almost instinctively, try to put that person into a group in my head, or I try to compare and judge.

Likewise, I almost can’t help judging myself in all kinds of situations. Like when I’m doing an asana during my yoga practice, I start to compare myself with the person standing next to me.

But with a lot of awareness of my own thoughts, I can at least try to stop myself when these thoughts arrive – which is time enough to try not to put these thoughts into words.

So if I was actually able to obtain purity of thoughts and words (which is still a long way away) then this should, according to the text, lead to a pure body.

Now, I have a good and healthy relationship with my body, but it is nevertheless a fact that my body is not clean – and never will be. My body has got a certain amount of waste and dirt, which needs daily removal, and no matter how healthy I eat or how many detox programmes I follow, this will be the case until the end of my days.

And so I wonder if the Saucha observance is trying to tell us something about accepting the fact that our bodies are not clean or perfect or pure. But if our thoughts and words about our body is neutral or without Gunas – if we can stop the constant thought stream of judging, blaming and generally giving weight to everything – good or bad. Then maybe our body will become pure to us in our mind. Then maybe we can see our body as a useful and cherished vehicle in this life.

And this could in turn have an impact on our actions in life.

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Kirsten Newbigging

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