In yoga, cleanliness is called saucha, and is very important on the yoga path. I hope this article will help explain the reason for its importance.

Why saucha? Patanjali places saucha as the very first niyama, the first step towards self-exploration. Why would Patanjali place so much emphasis on cleanliness? Saucha is the foundation of niyama, or personal discipline. The reason is energy. When the body is dirty, it holds on to previous energy.

When the clothes are dirty, they hold on to previous energy. When the house is dirty, it also holds on to previous energy. It is like a scale that houses caries. I’m sure you’ve discovered that when you’ve just cleaned the whole house, vacuumed it, cleared out the cobwebs, changed the sheets, it feels lighter, it feels brighter, it feels more alive. That’s because you’ve removed a layer from the past. So, to instruct students to be pure is to instruct them to shed layers of the past and enter the present. To be cleaner is to become lighter, to become brighter, to shed a layer of yesterday and become more present in the moment.

Saucha also increases the sensitivity to your own body odor and the sensitivity to the negative feelings that dirt gives. These gross sensitivities must be cultivated for the later limbs of yoga which require extreme sensitivity.

Often we hear the argument that we should not be obsessed with dirt, because dirt is also God. Although obsession with anything unyogic and filth, of course, has God in it, everything in the universe has its place. We would not try to wash our body with cow dung, even though cow dung is God, because our skin is not the appropriate place for cow dung to be. Similarly, the appropriate place for dirt is not in the house or on the body.

First comes cleanliness of the physical body. That is, take a shower, make sure that the body does not have an odor. No dirt under the nails. Clean hair. It all starts with the body. Number one is the body. Number two is clothing – what touches the body. Do not wear the same clothes twice if they have been worn for a long time. Washing clothes all the time. Use clean towels to dry your body after a shower.

Then comes what the body and clothes are in, which is the house and the car. One of the elements of a clean house is not wearing shoes inside it. The reason for this is to preserve the sanctity of the home. Shoes bring the energy of the outside world into our home. Another element of a clean home is to wash our hands immediately when we enter the house to remove the energy from the outside world. When you do these two things, you will find that the house begins to build its own energy – which is a reflection of your purer energy – rather than being a dilution of the energies of the outer world. Otherwise, these energies of the outer world flow in and out, thus diluting your own energy when you are in the house.

Aadil Palkhivala©2008

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