The Niyamas are observances with the intention of creating a liberated state of existence through healthy living and good habits. Who doesn’t like freedom? I think we all like the idea of being free to do what we please. However, freedom comes at a price, the benefits outweigh the exchange of energy required.
The first of the Niyamas outlined in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is Saucha. This is the practice of cleanliness, in thoughts, words, and deeds. Through observances, actions and self-examination a person gains liberation.
We are human; we will falter. This is a practice and does not require perfection but effort. It has an energetic cost however when you find that delicate balance within your life it will create a sense of ease.
Let’s start from the outside and work in. Perhaps, you are a clotheshorse and are passionate about fashion so much so that you have enough clothes to last you three months without repeating an outfit. Let’s also say you don’t like washing clothes and put it off to the last minute. In the corner of your room, there is a hamper. That hamper is so filled with clothes that it is spilling out on the floor. Every time you look at the hamper, you are filled with irritation and self-judgment. You turn the inner critic on high and start berating yourself for not washing the clothes a month ago. This is your pattern every month, and by the time you get to the last article of clothing on month three, your inner critic is on high. You are now at the breaking point and have no choice but to do laundry.
Imagine that all of these clothes have become a nuisance to your partner, parent, or roommate. All of these articles of clothing are in the way of the one shared bathroom. They ask you to clean up, you get irritated and lash out at them using unkind words. Perhaps, you even resort to name calling or transference and tell them “I don’t tell you how to live your life, and you do _____________ all of the time. So EXPLETIVE off.” So, not only are all your clothes causing negative self-talk, mental noise, and acting as physical obstacles but they have now had an impacted how you are treating someone else, who has made a reasonable request to better both your lives.
How can this cycle be avoided? Here are two examples:
1. You could scale down to only 10-articles of clothing, which would require less time and effort and upkeep. The pile would remain small, and interaction with those you live with would be pleasant, and that inner critic would be quiet.
2. You could do your laundry once a week or month, so the pile doesn’t add up. The pile would grow but would remain manageable and would prevent unpleasant dialog, negative self-talk, and freedom to move to the bath with ease.
Through this example, you would also be practicing the Yamas.
Ahimsa (non-violence) – Avoiding negative self-talk and negative interaction with others by staying in front of the task.
Satya (truthfulness) – By realizing order through minimalism or through performing the duty of laundry in a methodical manner you could avoid creating excuses or self-delusion.
Asteya (non-stealing) – If you had more order you wouldn’t steal away moments from yourself in self-judgment, nor be stealing the convenience of getting to the bathroom from those you share space with.
Brahmacharya (conservation of energy) – Saving energy by avoiding negative self-talk and negative interaction with loved ones by keeping on task. Also, by minimizing how much you use you would minimize your time requirement to doing laundry.
Aparigraha – if you let go of items then the burden of caring for them wouldn’t be great. You would have what you need and able to have balance.
Where do you feel you could practice Saucha in your life?