In my series of posts on the ten principles for living happy kindly passed on to us by some pretty smart ancient Yogis, we move now to the Niyamas. These are principles for living authentically and relate to making choices in our lives.
The first, Saucha, means ‘that and nothing else’, most often translated as ‘purity’. This word tends to be a bit of a giggle for most of us, making us imagine white, angelic, virgin innocence and pureness, otherwise known as ‘boring’!! But don’t close the page yet because there is something interesting in this that does not require giving up everything fun in your life.
I think this is about being conscious of how you are being affected each day, and over time, by what you eat, the environment(s) you are in, what you think and say, what you hear and see, and all sorts of other factors.
What factors influence your energy and attitude?
Most of us are faced with air, noise and visual pollution and a general overload of stimuli every day. We may not regularly experience the extreme sensory overload of Tokyo’s gaming arcades or Calcutta’s slums, but we still have the morning alarm, the multi-media advertising, the flashing lights, the music, the traffic, the smells, the machines, the announcements, the raised voices, other people’s moods, the toxins we don’t see or taste in the food, drink, clothes and products we consume, and worst of all, our own negative thoughts!
Every day our energy, health and outlook are influenced by all of these inputs, experiences and stimuli. We may feel tired and heavy, agitated or depressed, or vibrant and energized. In general, we do not feel like we have any control over these changing energies and how they make us think and act. We may be ignorant to their origins and grasping for inappropriate solutions. We may act confused, like victims, when we are stuck in negative patterns.
Choose what makes you feel good
I think the yogic principle “Saucha” suggests that we have potential to be masters of our own energy by choosing that which is essential and nothing else. We can do this when we become conscious of:
- the choices we make, and we start to choose what makes us feel good – where and how we work, what we eat, what we think and say, what environment we live in, who we spend time with, what we buy, etc., and
- how everyday living affects us, and we regularly shift stagnant or heavy energy, cleanse our body, and shake off negative patterns so that life continues to freely flow through us.
By choosing what’s truly good for you and cleaning up your act, you can live life more vividly. It’s like wiping clean your glasses so you can see out more clearly, or doing a big clean out at home so it feels fresh and you can find what is important to you. Donna Farhi suggests that Saucha is “a testament to the positive power of association.”
Be the Master of your Prana
So here are a few simple tips for detoxing and keeping the prana, or life-force energy, flowing every day! If you’re feeling bad after a day at work, don’t just slump in the couch and vegetate….
1. Breathe – From my experience, and also proven through science, your breath is an incredibly powerful, and super cheap, way to influence your mood, with innumerable health benefits. In sanskrit yogic breathing techniques are called ‘pranayama’ which actually means the control of the life energy. There are many different techniques with different objectives, including to calm, stimulate, cleanse or balance. For a powerful and simple techniques, take 10 minutes every day to sit or lie still and breathe deeply through your nose, using your diaphragm (so expand your belly as you inhale), and make the inhale and exhale become even. Notice the effect after just 10 minutes.
2. Move – One of the main reasons for Yoga postures is to shift energy. If you are feeling heavy and lethargic, stiff and restricted, negative and depressed, get up and move the body, very slowly at first, in rhythm with your breath, and gradually build it up, to shift the stagnant energy. You may like to practice some sun salutations, a gentle back bend or just get outside for a power walk. If you are feeling agitated and frustrated, it may be good to do some vigorous exercise, focusing on endurance and not straining – sun salutations or a bike ride – and then gradually slow it down with long deep forward bends. Either way consciously explore the sensations in the body and move in a way that feels natural and good, visualizing the breath and balanced energy flooding the body. Notice how you feel after 20 – 30 minutes.
3. Rest – Its funny how we avoid this when we are feeling tired and depressed, as much as we do when we are feeling agitated and nervous. And yet this is the balancing antidote for both!! Rest is not the same as sleep. It is not the same as watching tv or reading a book. It is a conscious choice to be still and let go, observing the body and mind relax for at least 20 minutes. Lie down in a comfortable, warm, quiet, dark space (or just cover your eyes) to give yourself the best rest. Watch your preoccupations and day gradually drift away.
4. Express – I believe that unexpressed emotions can be highly toxic and stay blocked in the body’s cellular memory. All emotions are valid and human. We have to choose how best to express them in a way that is authentic to us but does no harm. That might be verbally, in writing, song, music, or art. It may be going to the top of a mountain or deep into the forest and shouting, or pummeling your bed or a punch bag. It may be through tears, laughter or sound. It may be shared or alone. Let them out consciously so the energy can flow again and only then choose how to act next.
5. Drink – Drink plenty of water to hydrate and flush toxins through your body. Green tea is another great health drink, full of antioxidants. I love to make fresh juices with local organic fruit and vegetables to help keep my digestive system happy and dealing with life’s daily toxins. My favourite ingredients for this are carrot, beetroot, celery, apple, lemon and ginger. Mix ‘em up as your taste buds fancy!!
You are the Master of your energy. You have the choice!
Live with your senses wide open!
Image Credit: Colorfully