The end of the year is fast approaching. Thanks to all the students for your dedication to the subject and for supporting the Yoga Room. The Yoga Room will be closed during the break between Christmas and New Year. See the Timetable page for full details.
I recently attended the Iyengar Yoga Australia Convention in Adelaide. It was great to spend the weekend with so many like-minded yogis and wonderful to catch up with some of my friends and colleagues from Western Australia.
The main article in this newsletter is the third in the series taking a deeper look at the yogic philosophy as outlined in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. We look at the first Niyama: Saucha (Purity/Cleanliness).
There are limited spaces available for the Summer Yoga Intensive (4th to 23rd December). As with the past few intensives held at the Yoga Room these places fill fast. If you are thinking of attending call or email now.
Enjoy the newsletter and keep practising.
Video of the Month – BKS Iyengar, Yoga Master
Article of the Month – How yoga philosophy can be useful in our everyday lives: The eight limbs of yoga (Part 3)
Upcoming Events; Yoga Room Summer Yoga Intensive
Yoga Students “off the mat” – Sean Hancock
Patanjali Yoga Sutra of the month
Quote of the Month
This is a recent video about the life and practice of BKS Iyengar and shows some students of Yoga who all come from various backgrounds and have differing spiritual beliefs. It never ceases to amaze me how fortunate we are to be able to practice yoga on a daily basis.
Thanks to everybody for suggesting videos to watch and present in this newsletter.
To recap from the previous newsletter:
1 Yama (moral disciplines)
2 Niyama (rules of conduct)
3 Asana (poses or postures)
4 Pranayama (restraint or expansion of the breath)
5 Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses)
6 Dharana (concentration)
7 Dhyana (meditation)
8 Samadhi (absorption, spiritual enlightenment)
Iyengar says, the “Yama and Niyama control the yogi’s passions and emotions and keep him in harmony with his fellow man” (p3 LoY). In the last two newsletters, we looked at the five Yamas, Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (right use of energy) and Aparigraha (non-greed or non-hoarding).
Niyama are the rules of conduct that apply to individual discipline, while yama are universal in their application. The five niyama listed by Patanjali are: Saucha (purity), Santosa (contentment), Tapas (ardour or austerity), Svadhyaya (study of the self) and Isvara pranidhana (dedication to the Lord) (p16 LoY).
This month, we look at the first Niyama, Saucha or purity/cleanliness:
My grandmother used to say, “Cleanliness is next to Godliness”. It’s interesting to see Saucha as the first of the Niyamas (personal rules of conduct). When we take on an asana or pranayama practice, we’re using, creating and directing powerful energy. If we turn up on our mats with a sense of aggression instead of ahimsa (non-violence), self-denial instead of satya (truthfulness), laziness instead of tapas (discipline or burning passion), and impurity instead of saucha (cleanliness), then we’re not likely to progress as positively through our sadhana (practice).
If we take our ‘bad’ habits on to the mat with us, then our practice becomes a lot harder, and we have to sift through the ‘impurities’ or negativity we’ve picked up before reaping the benefits of Yoga. Of course, by impurities we’re not just talking about physical aspects. Saucha means cleanliness of body, mind, spirit and surroundings, all helping to direct us towards a pure and positive life.
Purity of blood is essential for well-being. While good habits like bathing purify the body externally, asana and pranayama cleanse it internally. The practice of asanas tones the entire body and removes the toxins and impurities caused by over-indulgence. Pranayama cleanses and aerates the lungs, oxygenates the blood and purifies the nerves. But more important than the physical cleansing of the body is the cleansing of the mind of its disturbing emotions like hatred, passion, anger, lust, greed, delusion and pride.
Still more important is the cleansing of the intellect (buddhi) of impure thoughts. The impurities of the mind are washed off in the waters of bhakti (adoration). The impurities of the intellect or reason are burned off in the fire of svadhyaya (study of the Self). This internal cleansing gives radiance and joy. It brings benevolence (saumanasya) and banishes mental pain, dejection, sorrow and despair (daurmanasya). When one is benevolent, one sees the virtues in others and not merely their faults. The respect we show for another’s virtues makes us self-respecting as well and helps fight our own sorrows and difficulties. When the mind is lucid, it is easy to make it one-pointed (ekagra). With concentration, we obtain mastery over the senses (indriyajaya). Then we are ready to enter the temple of our own body and see our real self in the mirror of our mind.
‘Pure’ thoughts don’t have to mean ‘pure’ in the sense of strictly thinking only of ‘holy’, or what we might consider ‘pure’ thoughts – it just means not thinking badly! We each have a choice in how we act, and by directing our thoughts towards positivity, we can add positivity to our own lives and to the world around us.
This concept applies in virtually all of the yamas and niyamas; our minds are very powerful, and what we choose to do with them has the ability to make a big impact. An ‘impure’ thought might be judging someone else badly in your yoga class because they’re unable to ‘perform’ postures as well as everyone else. It might come in the form of judging yourself for not achieving a goal at work, or impurities might arise when we get angry, stressed, worried or fearful about a situation. Remember: where attention goes, energy flows. You have the power within your mind to think pure thoughts, and therefore influence more purity within and without you. If there’s a problem in the world that you genuinely can do nothing about, then worrying and getting angry isn’t going to help; instead, choose to meditate and send positive, pure thoughts towards the situation and add some goodness to the world.
Our environment often reflects our state of mind. You’ll probably identify with the fact that when your bedroom or home is messy, your mind can often feel a little messy and cluttered too. When we’re surrounded by a clean environment, however, with clear surfaces, possessions that we need – not possessions we’ve hoarded over the years and can’t bear to get rid of – and the sense of having space to breathe, then we’re likely to feel a whole lot better and clearer in our minds.
Not only does having a clean place to practise in and a clean mat to practise on feel good, it shows a sign of respect towards our practice. Wearing clean clothes, having a clean and – if possible – dedicated yoga space to practise in allows us to approach each session almost like a clean slate, without anything to grab our attention and set off the chattering mind.
It’s pretty obvious that bathing and showering is a good idea as part of your daily routine – not only does being clean keep us healthy outside and in, but cleanliness indicates self-respect. Indeed, you are not your body, but our yoga practice does happen in this body, and keeping it healthy and clean is a good way of respecting our practice.
Iyengar says, it is difficult to practise in a distant country (away from home), in a forest, in a crowded city, or where it is noisy. One should choose a place where food is easily procurable, a place which is free from insects, protected from the elements and with pleasing surroundings. The banks of a lake or river or the seashore are ideal. Such quiet ideal places are hard to find in modern times; but one can at least make a corner in one’s room available for practice and keep it clean, airy, dry and pest-free.
No one likes getting a whiff of smelly feet or armpits, or any other bodily functions… Yes, yoga is about letting go, but it’s also about being aware; aware of our surroundings and aware of respecting others’ precious practice time! It’s always a good idea to come to class feeling fresh, and taking a shower before an evening class can even help to wash the day off us a little, allowing the stresses and strains of the work day to drain down the plug hole of the shower before heading out to our yoga class.
Besides purity of body, thought and word, pure food is also necessary. Apart from cleanliness in the preparation of food it is also necessary to observe purity in how we procure it.
Eating healthily and organically is considered ‘cleanest’ for us. If foods contain lots of preservatives, additives and pesticides, our bodies have to work hard to detoxify and eliminate these unnatural chemicals before even being able to absorb the goodness from what we eat and drink.
However, it isn’t always possible to eat organic or to consume entirely un-processed food and drink, and to be honest, we shouldn’t pressurise ourselves to stick rigidly to food rules anyway. But remember that ‘you are what you eat’, so the cleaner our food is, the cleaner we’re going to be inside and out. It’s just about having awareness of what we’re consuming, and making conscious choices to enable us to live healthier and happier.
Food, the supporting yet consuming substance of all life, is regarded as a phase of Brahman. It should be eaten with the feeling that with each morsel one can gain strength to serve the Lord. Then food becomes pure. Whether or not to be a vegetarian is a purely personal matter as each person is influenced by the tradition and habits of the country where you are born and grow up. But over time, the practitioner of yoga has to adopt a vegetarian diet, in order to attain one-pointed attention and spiritual evolution.
Food should be taken to promote health, strength, energy and life. It should be simple, nourishing, juicy and soothing. Avoid foods that are sour, bitter, pungent, burning, stale, tasteless, heavy and unclean.
Character is moulded by the type of food we take and by how we eat it. Humans are the only creatures that eat when not hungry and generally live to eat rather than eat to live. If we eat for flavours of the tongue, we overeat and so suffer from digestive disorders which throw our systems out of gear. The yogi believes in harmony and eats for the sake of sustenance only. Yogis do not eat too much or too little. They look upon their body as the rest-house of their spirit and guard against over-indulgence.
Saucha includes outer purity of body as well as inner purity of mind.
Saucha, or holistic purity of the body, is considered essential for health, happiness and general well-being. External purity is achieved through daily ablutions, while internal purity is cultivated through physical exercises, including asana (postures) and pranayama (breathing techniques). Along with daily ablutions to cleanse one’s body, the concept of Saucha suggests clean surroundings, along with fresh and clean food to purify the body. Lack of Saucha, such as letting toxins build up in the body, are a source of impurity.
Saucha goes beyond purity of body, and includes purity of speech and mind. Anger, hate, prejudice, greed, pride, fear, negative thoughts are a source of impurity of mind. The impurities of the intellect are cleansed through the process of self-examination, or knowledge of self (Adhyatma-Vidya). The mind is purified through mindfulness and meditation on one’s intent, feelings, actions and its causes.
• BKS Iyengar’s Light on the Yoga Sutras.
• BKS Iyengar’s Light on Yoga.
This intensive with Maurice will run for 18 days. Each 1.5 hour session will be designed to develop the concept of balance of body, mind and breath to the yoga practice. Experienced students and beginners alike will take their practice to a deeper level.
In this section of the newsletter, we introduce Yoga Room students and showcase some of the amazing things they do off the mat. We encourage you, where possible, to support their endeavours.
Sean Hancock, who in his ‘off the mat’ life runs Hancock Guitars, a family business building custom guitars, has been practising yoga now for three years and been a student of the Yoga Room for six months.
His journey with yoga began after he heard about all the benefits, such as flexibility, strength and relaxation. He had become tired of the gym routine and was looking for a different form of exercise.
Currently attending yoga classes around twice a week, Sean finds the biggest benefits to be around physical and mental relaxation. He often goes to a class feeling built-up tension from work and a busy life and after class, he feels more relaxed, has more energy and is physically and mentally more balanced.
Sean is one of that rare breed of native Gold Coasters and in his spare time, he enjoys the best of the Gold Coast offerings, the beach and surfing. He also likes going out for a coffee, and is an aficionado of the Game of Thrones.
Having previously attended a different studio, Sean found the benefits of Yoga Room classes suited him better. He feels he is learning a lot more about the practice, and making improvements with the guidance and personal advice about how he needs to improve his practice. “The difference is massive at the Yoga Room! I’m learning new things every session and the improvement in my practice, strength, flexibility and posture has been dramatic. I can see where I want to be and have a goal to work towards,” Sean said.
If you are thinking about buying a guitar, or you need your current one serviced or repaired, Hancock Guitars is worth a visit. They are a long-time Gold Coast business, established for 25 years. Apart from building custom guitars, they also do repairs and servicing of guitars.
Or the Facebook accounts associated with these.
You can contact Sean on mobile 0408 106 866
Chapter 2 Verse 40
Saucat Svanga Jugupsa Parair Asamsargah||40||
“Cleanliness of body and mind develops disinterest in contact with other for self-gratification.”
BKS Iyengar. Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali Pg 145
“Better keep yourself clean and bright; you are the window through which you must see the world.”
George Bernard Shaw
Yoga Room Burleigh Heads
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