| an excerpt from Light On Yoga from B.K.S. Iyengar about the topic cleanliness
“Purity of body is essential for well-being. While good habits like bathing purify the body externally, asana (yoga poses) and pranayama (regulation of the breath) 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 cleansing of the physical 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 of impure thoughts. This internal cleansing gives radiance and joy. It brings benevolence, banishes mental pain, dejection, sorrow and despair. 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 the means by which one procures it. Food should be taken to promote health, strength, energy and life.”
other lessons we work on in our yoga practice
nonviolence, truth, non-stealing, non-coveting, and continence; as well as purity, contentment, austerity, study of the Self, and dedication to the Lord. These ideas should be familiar to you because they are part of the 8 limbs of yoga. Where, in your life can you apply these lessons to deepen your yoga practice?
How many other ways can you clean up your yoga practice?
In your yoga poses, you are looking for ways to improve balance.
- balance your left side with your right
- balance front to back
- press down to extend up
- balance your effort with your ease.
Take the pose Vrksasana, a common “balancing” pose. As you stand on your right leg and take the left foot up to rest on the inside of the right thigh, you want the right and left leg pressing in towards each other. You should not lean forward nor back, but be centered over your right foot. The right foot pressing down into the earth as you ascend up. If any of these actions are out of balance, you will fall.
In this pose (and every pose) you are purifying the physical body by opening channles for energy flow, and improving the circulation of fluids such as blood and lymph. You are not just stretching muscles, but stretchig fascia, organs, and even every cell. As you move your body, you are spring cleaning! Where the body does not move, toxins accumulate and disease results.
Ask your self Who, What, and Why
For whom are you doing this pose? Are you practicing yoga because you read it would be good for you in a magazine, and you think your doctor/spouse/child will get off your back if you just try a few classes? Yoga is a way to know yourself, and you will need to take responsibility for your practice before you see the true rewards. While the physical body will become more toned just “going through the motions” of the poses, the cleansing of the mind will be more profound if you put your heart into your yoga.
What does yoga mean to you? Beginners come to yoga with the thought that they will probably feel better in their body. Many think that yoga is just some physical movements to “get a person in shape.” Yoga is much more than that! Yoga is a mindset that can be applied to any and every task in your life. Look back to the phrases above in green and think again about what yoga can mean to you.
Why do I continue to practice yoga? The story that you tell about how you came to yoga should evolve. Yoga is sneaky. Evolution is sometimes slow, but yoga will change for you, and yoga will change you. You may notice you feel a little lighter, maybe you are a little less reactive. Are you having less disturbing emotions?
At some point you may notice other parts of your life evolving
As you continuously cleanse your body and mind with your yoga practice, you might notice your diet and relationships evolving as well. Somehow you are learning that as you cleanse yourself of toxins, you want less toxic exposure. The toxins you take in are more noticeable and taking steps to omit them seem easier. Besides purity of body, thought, and word, pure food is also necessary.
Each and every adjustment leads to another adjustment. Pose and Re-Pose. We look inward and assess where we have been and where we are. We adjust as needed and continue. Spring cleaning not just in the spring, but every day that we wake up and open our eyes!