In my ongoing fascination of the 8 Limbs of Yoga I’ve been re-reading the Yoga Sūtra. During my review I ran across a definition of saucha, the practice of purification and cleanliness, that captured me and I wanted to share with you:
“Purification brings about clarity, happiness, concentration, mastery of the senses, and capacity for self-awareness.” – Yoga Sūtra, verse 2.41, translated by Chip Hartranft
That is quite a statement! How can purification activate these wonderful qualities of health and happiness? This reminds me of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs which theorizes that once our physiological needs are met, we are able to focus on other needs such as “love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization.”
Here’s how I envision this might come about:
Basic hygiene of the body prevents disease
Eating nutritious foods promotes a healthy body
When we have a healthy body, we are able to focus on other areas of ourselves that create healthy mental states which can often “bring about clarity, happiness, concentration, mastery of the senses, and capacity for self-awareness.”
By breaking down the process and the benefits of basic cleanliness, it makes sense that the practice of saucha is a critical element in creating health and happiness in our lives. The benefits Chip describes inspire me to want to adopt the saucha practices.
To put it into perspective, it’s helpful to see examples of what happens when saucha is not practiced. Here are 2 examples that are acutely affecting us today:
- 5.024 million people have been infected with the COVID virus and 161,842 have died in the USA. I pulled this data from the CDC website on August 10 and, sadly, these numbers are still rising. Furthermore, this crisis is wreaking havoc on our economic and mental states. In fact, there has been talk that the next pandemic could actually be a mental crisis.
- 11 million people in America die each year from poor diets. I obtained this alarming stat from Dr. Mark Hyman’s book, Food Fix. Additionally, he reported that 70% of Americans are overweight and 40% are obese! With obesity comes many chronic diseases including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, mental illness and more.
Clearly, it’s near impossible to be happy when we are sick and feel miserable. The good news is there are a variety of ways we can improve and maintain our health. However, I wholeheartedly believe that the 2 most effective saucha practices we can establish are the following:
Saucha Practice #1 – With the COVID pandemic in full force, following the CDC cleanliness guidelines is imperative. PLEASE wear a mask (that covers your nose and mouth), wash your hands (with soap and water) and maintain social distancing (at least 6 feet apart).
To educate yourself on how these 3 steps can prevent the spread of this virus review CDC’s website: Center for Disease Control
Saucha Practice #2 – Another way to practice saucha is to clean up your diet. This may take some time, but I challenge you to start making improvements now and continue to modify your diet over time. I have found taking baby steps in improving my diet positions me for the greatest success. My diet consists of organic fruits and vegetables, organic fed, free range meat and eggs, lots of water, no sodas and minimal junk food---I do, however, need an occasional treat! After reading Food Fix, I discovered many opportunities for improvement, so I recently made the following tweaks to my diet:
- Use avocado oil instead of olive oil when cooking. When olive oil reaches a certain temperature, the health benefits of olive oil are lost and the heat can actually create toxic smoke. Avocado oil doesn’t reach this way, maintaining its health benefits.
- Replace organic brown rice with lower glycemic grains such as amaranth and black rice.
- Eat fish that contain lower amounts of mercury, such as wild salmon.
I encourage you to make a healthy diet a goal, but to allow yourself a few treats now and then! Dr. Hyman has some delicious and nutritious recipes in his book, Food, What the Heck Should I Eat?
To get started making improvements to your diet, list 3 specific ways you plan to modify your diet and share your ideas in the comments below.
I hope these 2 saucha practices inspire you to create positive changes in your life so you can experience “clarity, happiness, concentration, mastery of the senses, and capacity for self-awareness."