The niyamas describe actions and attitudes we should cultivate. The first niyama is saucha meaning purity or cleanliness. It includes purifying your body, mind and spirit. Cleanliness of your body can be accomplished by washing yourself, maintaining a clean and orderly home, eating healthy foods and drinking clean water among others. Purity of your mind involves not polluting your mind with negativity and clutter. Cleanliness of your spirit refers to keeping your personal energy clean and devoting yourself to meditation, mindfulness or yoga.
I can call myself a pretty organized and clean person. My practice of asanas and pranayama is perfectly aligned with the saucha philosophy, since it tones my entire body and removes the toxins and impurities. Therefore physical purity is relatively easy to maintain in the first instance. Though, you can also consider the food you eat and how you eat it, in regards to saucha. Over-appreciation and over-avoidance of food can both cause problems. I could definitely improve my practice of mindful eating. Often, I catch myself eating while checking my email or reading a book. With the result of not being aware of what I actually put in my mouth or when I have had enough to eat. Above all, I remind myself that food is meant to nourish and sustain my body and of course to be enjoyed, so that spiritual development can continue.
Purification of the mind is way more challenging for me, consequently a lot can be learned in this area. During the day I often experience a constant, random inner dialogue. Yoga, including self-study, meditation and pranayama (breath work) supports me to calm down my mental activity and cleanse my physical body at the same time. Maybe that is one of the reasons why yoga appealed to me in the first place.
In terms of cleanliness of spirit, it is interesting to know that 99% of matter in the universe is energy and space. Daily purification of your energies, can help with the elimination of invisible obstacles. Chanting Om for example is a method to cleanse energies. At the beginning of your yoga practice chanting guides you from an outward focus during your workday to an inward focus during your practice. At the end of your practice it can seal the energy or inward focus before moving out into the world again. Practicing purity of the spirit is a way to increase your consciousness and spiritualize your daily life.
On a deeper level, saucha involves the purity you find in your heart. By practicing cleanliness you can lift your self-esteem and self-consciousness and feel your intentions and goals with clarity. If you connect yourself with the purity in your heart, the inner dialogue will be naturally quieted with the result of experiencing calm and stability even in the most difficult circumstances.