Yoga Sutra 2.40: saucat svanga jugupsa parairh asamsargah
Purity protects one’s body and brings nonphysical relationships with others. (trans. B. Bouanchaud)
Yoga Sutra 2.41: sattva suddhi saumanasya ekagrya inddriyajaya atma darsana yogyatvani ca
Then, purity, clarity, and well-being of the spirit come to flower, as well as concentration, mastery of the eleven sense organs, and perception of the inner being. (trans. B. Bouanchaud)
Is cleanliness next to Godliness? Before I began studying the Yoga Niyamas I would have been scoffing in cynicism, eyebrows raised in disbelief at the *ancient* saying. That was something our mothers said that was soooo not relevant to the twenty-first century.
The yoga sutras push the whole cleanliness concept a whole lot further than, say keeping your room picked up. Patanjali links purity of body with purity of mind. No surprise there for anyone who has practiced yoga for even a month or two.
I am reminded of my Catholic school education. When preparing for the sacrament of First Confession, or Penance as it is called now we learned many ways that we can break our relationship with God. It is not only the body that can sin, but the mind as well, Sister Mary Grace would tell us. Though at times I have pooh-poohed this teaching as one that carried a truckload of guilt in its big flat bed, I now understand from my practice that pretty much EVERYTHING I do starts in my cantankerous MIND. Clearing my mind with a hard physical practice, or focused pranayama, or chanting a mantra can have amazing results with removing toxic thoughts and feelings. My body glows when my mind shines! This is shauca, or existing in a state of purity.
And no sense getting all bogged down in guilt either; shit happens as they say, and life is all about accumulating stress. A definition of life might just be that which acquires STRESS. Our job as yogins is to reduce and cleanse our systems so that pure energy can flow and energize us.
Taking another approach: everything starts with the BODY. If I clean and honor my body, my thoughts begin to flow purely and positively. Mike and I are turning our diets to the vegan side (ahh, it’s harder than I thought it would be, but more about that later). Only a couple of weeks in though, and we both notice a growing mental clarity and wakefulness. My insides feel cleaner than ever! My thoughts grow more gentle.
Amy Weintraub writes, in Yoga for Depression, that the Yamas and Niyamas (yogic ethics and observances) constitute a program for positive mental health. She suggests mantra for attaining a state of mental purity. Tat tvam asi, or You are that, a mantra from the Advaita vedanta tradition she uses, repeating the words, You are with me. Recognizing the nondual notion that there is no difference between You and That, the practitioner can settle into a state of equilibrium, if not ecstatic bliss.
Can you take one step today toward cleaning up your life? Making a committment to do it is the first step.