There are two limbs of yoga that come before asana. Recently, the Yoga Rant explored the Yamas, or behavioral restraints. Next, we'll cover the third limb, the Niyamas (internal restraints and observations). The great thing about the yamas and niyamas is that they aren't just the building blocks of good yoga--they're common-sense practices that can be used to build a happier life, whether you're a hard-core yogi or a tentative beginner. Also, if you begin to practice one, you'll see that you've already made progress with others. Sauca ties in well with ahimsa and brahmacharya, If you're making an effort to do less harm and to live a life of moderation, sauca will follow.
What Is Sauca?
Sauca translates to cleanliness or purity. Both of those words have a lot of potential meanings, connotations, and applications. An obvious one: keep your body clean. It's fun to work up a sweat. It's not so fun to sit marinating in it all day. Keeping clean is a way to show respect for yourself and those around you. Like most of the yamas and niyamas, sauca is ultimately a small step you can take that will help you stay focused and moving forward. If you're uncomfortable because you stink, you're not going to get much done. This also ties in to your ahmisa practice; the less harmful diets tend to be the cleanest.
A Clean Space
Show respect not just by keeping yourself clean, but by maintaining clean spaces where you can live, work, and practice your asana. Some of us can't function without a slightly cluttered desk or a room full of deceptively organized piles. However, the state of your home (or office) can resonate in your life. If you have to dig through or step around the mess in your home, you're wasting energy. Make a clear path for yourself, mentally and physically, by tending to your surroundings.
A Clean Mind
The thought police have arrived! I am not going to define what thoughts are or aren't clean, but one's own conscience is an excellent guide. Who has ever felt better as a result of jealousy, grudges, or hateful feelings? This relates to your brahmacharya practice. Overindulgence of negative thoughts doesn't serve anyone. Even righteous anger has limits if you're going to get on with your life.
Sauca is another yogic principle that seems simple, but is composed of many layers. The best way to start an earnest practice is to examine what you're already doing. Make a list of all the ways you're already living a clean life, and a list of ways you could improve. Chose one small change to put in action, and your practice will grow and evolve over time.