Moving onto the Niyamas; beginning with Sauca

The yamas are the list of the five "don't do's" in order to live a balanced life in harmony with other beings, for example don't be unkind, don't steal, don't hoard. The niyamas are the "do's". The first of the five niyamas is Sauca, which means purity or cleanliness of body, thoughts and actions. Where better to consider this than on a brisk, clean spring morning (the image was taken in Papplewick in Nottingham, if you're interested. Isn't it a beautiful sky?)

Bodily cleanliness is relatively straight forward; I'm sure most of us wash regularly, clean our teeth etc, but this also applies to the food that we put into our body. For example, the Sivananda yogis eat only sattvic foods, ones that are 'clean' or pure and follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. Now, I'm not saying everyone should be veggie, but being mindful of the grub that we eat can only be a good thing, right? The cells of our body are repairing and renewing themselves all the time and our digestive system works hard to extract all the good stuff, the vitamins and minerals to fuel that regeneration. We literally are made of the foods we eat. A sobering thought, especially if someone may have just eaten a chocolate biscuit (*ahem* three chocolate biscuits) before sitting down to write. Anyhow, I think you get the picture; sauca applies to all aspects of our lives. Even the products that we use on our skin can be ingested and affect the delicate chemical balance of our bodies. Did you know that skin is semi-permeable? It's worth doing a little bit of reading up on cleaning products, moisturisers, shampoos etc to make sure you know what you're bringing into your body, but that's a whole other soap box for a whole other day.

Asana and pranayama are an excellent way to work towards the purity or the focus of the mind. The physical poses (asana) use any excess energy in the body, allowing for the muscles to feel worked and comfortably tired before attempting meditation. Pranayama, or the control of the breath facilitates both the physical practice and provides a focus for our chattery minds as we prepare for meditation. It is very natural for our minds to run away thinking about things on our to-do list, or revisiting past memories, wondering what we're going to eat for dinner later or, "what is that dog barking at outside?!". But by gently drawing the attention back to the physical sensations of the act of breathing each time a thought pops into our minds, we encourage the mind to be still. I have to say, it's not easy, I have one of the most chattery brains in history and my own personal meditation is a work in progress, but with practice, focusing the mind is attainable for all of us.

When we feel this mental clarity, it is easier to stay in the present moment, being mindful of things that are happening now, rather than worrying about past or the future events. "Yesterday is history, tomorrow a mystery. Today is the present which is why it is a gift"