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Hand Washing as a Yoga Practice

Apr 22, 2020 | Articles

The Principle of “Saucha” Can Help Fight Infection

By Carol Krucoff, C-IAYT, E-RYT

Postures, breathing, and meditation are three well-known components of the yoga practice that can enhance wellbeing.  And as the Covid Crisis transforms our world, a less-recognized part of the yogic toolkit can also offer guidance and support.  

The yogic principles for ethical and moral conduct, called “yamas” and “niyamas,” are part of the Eightfold Path to enlightenment outlined in the classic text on yoga, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.  Sometimes called the Ten Commandments of Yoga, these principles–which include non-harming, non-stealing, and truthfulness–align with the ethical precepts of the world’s great religions. 

The first of the “niyamas“–or “self-restraints”–is the discipline of saucha, which has particular significance as we do our part to avoid spreading infection. Translated as “purity,” saucha relates both to the internal practice of keeping our hearts and minds pure as well as to the external habits of proper hygiene.  

The ancient proverb that places cleanliness “next to Godliness” aligns with this yogic teaching that keeping your body, your home, and your world clean is more than just a chore–it is a sacred discipline.  

On a practical level, practicing saucha can reduce the risk of illness, through habits such as hand washing and hygienic food handling.  As we’ve been continually reminded in recent weeks, hand washing is one of the most effective ways to prevent infection and illness – including Covid 19.  The CDC recommends frequent hand washing including before, during and after preparing food; before eating food; after using the toilet; after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing; after touching an animal, animal feed or animal waste; and after touching garbage. 

Now that we’re all washing our hands often–for at least 20 seconds–rather than view this task as a boring chore, try turning it into an opportunity to refresh your body, mind, and heart.  Click this link to see a short video of how to turn your hand washing into a yoga practice.   

Taking several slow, mindful breaths can be a refreshing way to occupy the 20 seconds recommended for hand washing.   Alternatively, you might say a 20-second prayer, devotional song or mantra.   Be creative — consider reciting (mentally or out loud) something that makes you smile, such as Happy Birthday to a loved one–living or dead–or a verse from a favorite poem.  

 In this way, the practice can do more than just clean your hands–it can help you connect to something or someone you hold dear. 

 Wishing you good health,

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