by Swami Saradananda
Swami Saradananda is
an internationally-renowned yoga and meditation
teacher. She has taught yoga for more than
thirty years and is the author of several
Have you ever stopped to
observe the state of your body when you are under
intense pressure? What is your breathing like
when you feel stressed out, fearful or worried?
If you are like most people, your muscles tighten.
Simultaneously your breath speeds up and becomes
increasingly shallow. This instinctive "fight
or flight" response makes it difficult, if
not impossible, for you to breathe fully and deeply.
The pressures of modern life
may be causing you to frequently feel stressed
out, yet it is often not possible to run away,
nor is it a good idea to be fighting with those
around you. Instead you may find yourself relieving
your tension in other ways, not always healthy
ones, which enable you to take a deep breath.
How you react often depends on your personality.
For example, you may begin to shout, or you may
feel so frustrated that you start to cry, or you
may reach for a cigarette.
The best advice is the old
adage to "just take a deep breath."
Yet, if you are unaccustomed to breathing deeply
when you are not stressed, deep breathing becomes
increasingly difficult when you are faced with
The fact that your body,
mind and breath are intimately connected is now
a scientifically accepted fact. Learning to control
your breath is the best possible form of stress
Many yoga texts describe
this body-mind-breath connection using the analogy
of a lake or ocean.
When the weather is rough, sediment is churned
up and the water becomes murky. But when the wind
dies down, the mud gradually settles and the water
becomes clear. In a similar way, the faster you
breathe, the more you churn up distracting thoughts.
As you relax, your breath deepens and lengthens,
and your mind becomes more lucid and clear.
to control your breathing enables you to gain
conscious control of the energy moving through
your body. It can connect you with your suppressed
emotions, help you to free yourself of your own
restrictive beliefs, and enhance your self-image
Meditation on your Breath -
Calming your Mind
- Sit in a comfortable
position with your back straight. It is best
to not lie down during meditation, as you will
tend to fall asleep.
- Close your eyes and take
a few exaggerated deep breaths. Then let go
of your breath. Don't try to control it, but
let it come to a comfortable, natural rhythm.
Let it be as deep or as shallow as it likes
- as fast or as slow as is comfortable.
- Don't try to control your
breath, but begin to watch it. Notice how it
rises and falls. Do not try to change or slow
your breath, but just observe it.
- Experience your breath
as it enters your nostrils; feel it going past
the back of your throat. Picture the path of
the air as it moves down your trachea into your
bronchial tubes, then see it entering and filling
- Note how there is a slight
halt, a momentary holding, as your in-breath
turns around to transform itself into your out-breath.
- As you breathe out, be
aware of how your lungs are emptying themselves
of air. Visualise your breath as it moves up
and out of your body.
- Notice the slight wind
that your breath produces on your upper lip.
Then there is a pause. Your breath stops for
a moment and transforms itself into your in-breath.
- Visualise yourself joyously
drawing in life with each inhalation.
- Release pent up emotions
and impurities with each exhalation.
- Gradually see your mind
calming; note how it slows with your breath.
- Watch your breath. Listen
to your breath.
- If your mind drifts off,
keep bringing it back to your breath.
Try to sit for 10-20
minutes with your mind completely focused on your
breath. Then stand up, stretch your body and notice
how calm you feel.
Cultivating Saucha in
by Swami Saradananda
"When your body is cleansed,
your mind purified and your senses are controlled,
you experience the joyful awareness that enables
you to realise your inner self."
Yoga Sutra 2-41
In his classical text Yoga
Sutra, Maharishi Patanjali takes every
opportunity to remind you that your body is the
essential vehicle of your soul on its journey
towards perfection. To maintain good physical
and mental health, he strongly suggests the practice
of "saucha," i.e. purification of your
body, mind and environment.
Saucha is purification on
all levels. It includes the physical cleanliness
of bathing your body, maintaining an orderly home,
eating healthy food and drinking clean water.
It also involves mental clarity and speech that
refrains from emotionally-charged obsessions and
addictions. Saucha is a pre-condition for experiencing
the fullness of life and enjoying inner peace.
The practice of saucha enables
you to select wisely from the many choices of
food, emotions, and thoughts that are waiting
to enter into your body and mind. As your body
becomes purified, you will probably notice that
your health is improving. As your mind becomes
purified, you will most likely find yourself feeling
increasingly clear, friendly and cheerful. Saucha
is not only the foundation for health of your
body and mind; it is also an essential doorway
to deeper states of meditation.
Saucha assists your physical
and energetic bodies, enabling them to better
release accumulated tensions, toxins and waste
materials that hinder the healthy flow of blood,
oxygen and prana. A pre-requisite of good health
is good circulation. Similarly, the regular practice
of purification of your mind and emotions lessens
psychological and sensory distractions. You become
better at letting go of the mental clutter that
has come about through your attachments to past
experiences, demands of your body and anticipation
of future events.
Yoga postures, performed
with a conscious relaxed breath, have a cleansing
effect on your body and mind, whilst calming your
emotions. You can further purify your mind through
regular meditation and ongoing study.
Purify your karma by establishing
a regular practice of yoga and meditation. This
enables you to "burn" your karma more
quickly and efficiently. Cleanliness and order
lift your self-esteem, reinforce your knowledge
that you are worthy of good experiences and improve
your self awareness. Your intentions are clearer,
unencumbered by gross and subtle imbalances.
The reverence you bring to
your daily life and the cleanliness you practice
reinforces your sense of sacredness. It is no
coincidence that Gandhi worked so hard at sanitation
efforts in both South Africa and India. Without
purity of body and mind, spiritual clarity tends
to elude you. The immensity and luminosity of
your true self and your connection to spirit and
to others becomes clouded. The transparency you
cultivate by the practice of saucha enables you
to reflect the divine more completely in all your
relationships. It is worth the effort to find
time each day to practice the observance of saucha
and to express gratitude for your ability to do
suggestions for integrating the practice of Saucha
into your daily life:
- Learn yoga kriyas (cleansing
exercises), such as neti, from a qualified teacher.
Practice them on a regular basis.
- Make a resolve to straighten
your desk/ kitchen/ work area each day before
you leave it.
- If your living space is
overly cluttered, prepare a bag for the charity
shop. Every day, put one item into it. When
the bag is full, drop it off at the charity
shop and prepare another bag.
- Resolve to clean out at
least one drawer or cupboard each week.
- Each week, eliminate one
potentially negative item from your diet. Daily
note the effect (if any) on your body and mind.
- Resolve to say what you
mean. Watch yourself, your thoughts as well
as your actions, as though you are an objective
observer. Notice how transparent you are.
- Start a Journal.
Choose one or more of the following questions
to work with. Write each question at the top
of a separate page in your journal. Each morning,
sit for at least 10 minutes and write down whatever
comes to mind - don't be your own editor - just
write! If you have a meditation practice, it
is best to sit just after you have finished
- What do my home
and work area say about the state of my
- How do I relate
to my body?
- Do I actually
experience my body as the temple of my soul?
- What eating habits
could I change to make my mind more clear
- How could I better
cleanse my thoughts and emotions so that my
true self could shine through?
- In what ways could
I simplify my life?
- How else might
I enhance the practice of saucha in my life?
Not all of these questions
necessarily apply to you. The opportunity to practice
saucha arises every day. Regular practice clears
and cultivates your physical, mental and emotional
||Sheaths - Layers
pranayama, kriyas, pure diet, fasting
|2. Astral Body
pranayama, voluntary silence
fasting, selfless service, chanting, meditation
meditation, positive thinking, right inquiry,
| 3. Causal