Sunday, December 25, 2011


There is an observance in Yoga called Saucha, and it means a variety of similar ideas including purity, cleanliness and honesty.

On the mat this observance shows up in a few ways. The one the comes to mind first is the mistake that we all make at some point in our fitness careers, which is to push beyond our limits. When starting out in yoga, or even when you get swept up in the energy of a crowded or really focused class, it can be distracting to keep your mind on your own practice. Maybe you've got a sore wrist from overuse at your desk job, and your in a flow class. Working with the observance of saucha could come up as taking a modified vinyasa on your forearms instead of in traditional plank-chatarunga dandasana; or it could mean skipping a vinyasa altogether and sitting in heroes pose for a series of wrist rotations; or it could mean communicating to the instructor before class that you are having wrist irritation and asking about alignment points that would be important to keep in mind during the class.

I feel like saucha requires one part awareness and one part responsibility, because it's one thing to be aware of [for instance] your wrist pain, and it's another to honor that state enough to be proactive about protecting yourself from more damage.

Off the mat this observance shows up in different ways, also: Saucha also refers to cleanliness and we can practice this in terms of personal and material hygiene. Keeping our yoga mats sanitized, wiping down props that we use in class, coming to class freshly showered [ideally], keeping our body and clothing well cared for are all ways to practice the observance of cleanliness.

In a less physical dimension, practicing honesty could come up as maintaining a clean and direct thought process. Natural opportunities for this happen so many times throughout the day. Think about a conversation you have with a colleague or loved one that becomes confrontational, or finding yourself in a situation that you know brings up awkwardness or intimidation. Observing saucha could be something like, "This person intimidates me and I am going to talk to them anyway," or , "The way my roommate cleans the bathroom is lazy and I feel really irritated about that," or "Even though I'm jealous of this persons outgoing personality, I can compliment them on it and not lose my own sense of value."

In my own study and application of these yogic ideas, it's a little difficult to put together a concise short about them. I know I'm going to keep developing and deepening my experience of Saucha. Saucha, honesty, purity, cleanliness - these are concepts that come up in a plethora of interesting and surprising ways in the yogic classroom and in our daily breath-to-breath life!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Questions from Students: Injury Recovery

After my Saturday class at Black Dog Yoga, a student asked me about injury recovery and stamina.

He told me that he was post-operative and had just begun practicing again after a few months of recovery. Prior to surgery he practiced regularly and took pilates often. He explained that during our Basics class, he felt winded and off balance and found that he needed to take frequent breaks in order to maintain his breath and balance. His question was, "when will I be able to practice like I used to?"

I offered him this response: Take breaks to breath without moving the body as often as needed. The body will recover at it's own pace, despite how ready your mind is to get back into the physical practice. The most difficult part of the healing process may be to keep the mind in it's place while the physical body restores itself. I explained that the practice is cumulative so whatever amount of posture he does during class will benefit him, and that as long as he stays with his breath, he will receive all of it's benefits.

He shook his head in agreement and told me that he knew it would take some time to get back, and that the patience he would need at this point may be the most challenging benefit in his practice to date. :)

I am very happy to have had him in class, and to offer me this question. I've felt this way many times in my life, having endured a variety of injuries and illness that prevented me from going through with my regular routines. We will all experience some version of this man's challenge during our yoga practice. May we come away from it with the same liberating challenge as he has.

Be well! Stay dry LA!