Purification (Shaucha) is a central aim of all the yogic practices and is the first principle of self-discipline (Niyama) in Patanjali’s eight-limbed (Ashtanga) approach. We are constantly exposed to toxins from our air, water, cleaning products, processed foods and emotional toxins induced by stress. Yoga purifies the body and mind by stimulating and purifying the lymphatic system, circulatory system, respiratory system, by bringing health to our digestive tract, calming the mind and stimulating the internal organs.
Impurities in our internal body adversely affect our state of mind also. Through the yogic practices of asana and pranayama, the body and the mind become cleansed and our spiritual growth is accelerated. The asanas purify the body through movements that increase and improve the flow of blood, oxygen, and prana (life force energy) in the tissues, muscles and organs. Body movements through various asanas help to pump and cleanse the lymphatic system. The lymphoid tissue defends the body against infections, inflammations and the spread of tumors, so keeping the lymphatic system pure will bring great healing benefits to the body.
We all know the importance of a strong, healthy heart. By exchange of gasses from parts of the body, transporting waste to our excretory system, helping maintain our pH, and much more – this is how the circulatory system detox the body. The yoga poses squeeze and massages the muscles and organs to move out old stagnant blood and bring in fresh blood full of nutrients and oxygen. In the more dynamic postures, heat is created and sweat is produced to facilitate the release of toxins through the pores of the skin.
Prana, or life force energy is utilized through the breath in yoga. A deep fluid breath is one of the most important aspects of a yoga practice. In fact, in the 8-limbs (or Ashtanga pathways) of yoga, pranayama is listed as one of the main aspects of a well-rounded practice. Our respiratory system has an immune defense of its own and also nourishes our body’s cells in doing their detox jobs. The breathing techniques of pranayama purify the mind and body through the balance and cultivation of energy throughout the whole body. Different pranayamas have different actions on the body and thus different purifying effects like deep cleansing, removing the blockages, energizing and some are calming and stress reducing.
Eating well is crucially important to our health both physically and emotionally. If you eat healthy your body still needs to be able to properly digest and eliminate your food to maintain health. Issues such as gas, bloating and constipation are all digestive problems that can be avoided with awareness of your diet and regular practice of yoga for digestion and elimination.
The practice of yoga allows the opportunity to clear the mind, it doesn’t happen overnight however it is a long enjoyable journey to a calm and peaceful mind. Purification of the mind is essential for our personal growth and the removal of the domination of ego is essential. The ego is the external self, the way we want people to see us, the constant approval that the ego yearns for. Through persistent practice and discipline, the purification of the mind takes place. The increase of energy in the body, clarity of mind and happiness abides in the heart. The way to a better self is through the route of purification, which is likely to hurt a little while the ego is being ripped out and thrown away.
The wellbeing of body and mind can be accomplished by purifying the five elements within the body. Through yoga, we are able to purify the elements and restore balance in our lives. With enough purification, we can essentially gain mastery over the elements, and over the systems and processes, they govern within us.