I used to have fantasies about rebooting my life. At times when I was in the emotional spin cycle—work drama, relationship drama, general overwhelm that kept me from thinking clearly—I’d dream of going on a yoga retreat to an ashram and staying there. Taking my vows, getting my set of orange robes (no more confusion about what to wear!), and shaving my head (no more frizz on humid days!). I’d pare down to the minimum of stuff, just a few spiritual books, and lead a simpler life.
It’s a fun fantasy, though a little extreme (especially that non-hair style). The good news is that you don’t have to go that far to achieve a calmer, more drama-free life. All you have to do is start working with one simple Yoga principle: Saucha (SOW-cha).
“Purity” is the English translation for Saucha, one of the Niyama, a set of Yoga principles we practice for ourselves. (The Yama are the set of ethics we practice toward others.) Saucha is usually about practicing purity in mind, body, and spirit. To me, it’s been the spiritual cleanser that has a ton of uses. The idea of purity can cover a wide range of areas in your life, helping to make them easier and breezier.
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I use Saucha as a sort of “delete” button to help me get rid of things I don’t need. I start with careful evaluation and release things from there. There’s a whole Spiritual Spring Cleaning using Saucha in my book Yoga Mind, and here are some of the basics you can start with.
Stuff: It’s easiest to put Saucha into action with something tangible, where the results are seen and felt immediately—like by getting rid of stuff you don’t need. As Mayim discovered when she Marie Kondo-ed her living space, having stuff you don’t use or want can hold you back. Letting go of it is freeing. Use Saucha as a concept for purifying your space, and another Yoga tool, Aparigraha, or non-hoarding, to back it up. Start by evaluating the contents of your closet, and think about the word evaluate; it means to estimate the value of something to you. If it has value of some sort, keep it. If not, donate it so it can be used, and valued, by someone else.
Food: Another easy way to bring Saucha into your life is by evaluating what you eat. Take a look at what you’re putting into that sacred temple of a body you live in; what honors the temple, and what doesn’t? I loved sugar and felt married/addicted to it, but the relationship became abusive. Sugar made me too high, then too low, and led to restless leg syndrome that kept me up all night. How do I know this? I quit sugar and my sleep became deep and amazing. Fewer anxiety dreams, too. Observe what you eat for a week, and then see what you can edit—sugar, caffeine, processed food, too much sodium, things like that. Don’t go overboard and try to get too pure in your diet—that can lead to disordered eating. Just see where Saucha can help you honor your beautiful physical self in healthier ways.
Media: My next step in expanding Saucha in my life was informing my husband we could no longer watch Westworld right before bed, or anything else that was violent or heavily dramatic. Whatever I do before bed stays in my head for a while and keeps any kind of sleep from happening. This wasn’t an entire deletion, just a shift; we watch these kinds of things earlier in the evening. Saucha means keeping things pure before calling it a day. I did entirely delete checking email and social media for an hour before bed; the blue light emitted from devices messes with your sleep rhythms.
People: Okay, now we’re hitting the big time. Yes, I Sauchafied some people from my life, those with anger management issues. These were the types who yell first and justify, not apologize, later. In one case, I ended a professional relationship. The other case was a friendship. A wise woman I worked with once came up with a brilliant exit strategy for ending difficult friendships with this statement: “I don’t think I can be the type of friend you need me to be right now.” Kind, and kind of final.
Unlike my escape fantasy and its attendant hair(less)do, Saucha doesn’t need to be taken to an extreme. It’s a gentle tool to help you look at areas in your life where paring down will lead to more peace. You’ll get space in your home and your head, and you’ll feel calmer and healthier.
What do you want to delete from your life? If you have specific questions about how to use Saucha to purify your life, leave me a comment. And let me know how it goes!
Suzan Colón is the author of Yoga Mind:Beyond the Physical: 30 Days to Enrich Your Practice and Revolutionize Your Life From the Inside Out