Saucha is the first of five Niyamas in the 8 limbs of yoga. When we talk about the Niyamas we talk about practices regarding ourselves. The word Niyama is often translated as ‘positive duties’.
In the second book of the Yoga Sutras, sutra no. 40 it says:
“By purification arises disgust for ones own body and for contact with other bodies”
A sentence that may seem scary, but let me elaborate. When purity is observed one will feel that even our own body is unclean. Impurities are eliminated every second. Through the breath we excrete carbon dioxide and through the skin comes sweat and then we have urine, feces and saliva. No matter how much perfume we put on, it only hides the impurities. No matter how well we try to hide it, it will come back. By realizing this, we create a new relationship with the body. We do not neglect it, but our bodily focus will disappear. Our attractions for other bodies will diminish, which will save us a lot of time and energy. As we spend more time on deeper aspects of life than our bodies, and go into the spiritual, we will gain an understanding that we are not our bodies. The real unity is not created between two bodies. What we call a masculine and feminine body are just two different pieces of meat. We will not achieve nirvana by putting two pieces of meat together.
People misunderstand Tantra yoga as something that has to do with sexual unity. In the Tibetan tantric system, shiva and sakti are discussed – where shiva is the masculine aspect and sakti the feminine. It is not about our physical form, but about the positive and negative forces in each individual. In hatha yoga we call it sun and moon. Ha means sun; tha means moon. The inner sun is in our solar plexus; the moon is at the base of our spine. To be united, these must come together. This is known as the ‘Prana-Apana union’. The energy that flows down must turn up and be returned to its source. The heat produced in meditation rises and affects certain glands, which then produce ‘nectar juice’. This flow from the bottom of our spine through the nerves, builds them up, makes them more alive and helps them become almost immortal. The word nectar (amrta in Sanskrit) means ‘immortal’. The body will be filled with light (ojas and tejas and will be converted into a ‘yogic body’).
The second book of the Yoga Sutras, Sutra No. 41 states:
“Moreover, one gains purity of sattva, cheerfulness of mind, one-pointedness, mastery over the senses and fitness for Self-realization.”
First you understand the body, then the heart becomes pure as well. When your heart is pure, you are always happy. Concentration of the mind happens automatically, without you having to try. Only an unclean mind runs from end to end, forcing us to bring it back again and again. The senses are also controlled and then comes ‘atma sarsana yogyatvani’, ready for Self-realization. These are all benefits of following Niyama’s first compliance.