Sunday, August 3, 2014

The body is a temple

Over the eons people have intuited A Divine Presence, have told stories to bring that awareness to life, and have erected beautiful temples to celebrate it and to visit to bring them closer to its power and grace. Many rituals of purity also developed. It is understandable that if you had a temple that housed a powerful deity, you would want to keep it clean.

In yoga we come to understand that the Divine, or Universal Consciousness, or whatever you wish to call it, is accessible within ourselves.

This makes our body the temple. So it is worthwhile to consider what we can do to make it a pure and sacred space. The thoughts we think, the attitudes we embrace, the food we eat, the words we speak, are all to be considered in our quest for sauca (pronounced "sowcha"), purity.

In fact, sauca is the first Niyama, or personal practice, mentioned by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras.

The yogi sages also developed practices to purify the body, called shatkarma. One of these is neti or nasal cleansing. Jala neti, water cleansing, is an excellent daily practice to keep the nasal passages clean and healthy. It is recommended for anyone who has sinus conditions. It removes dirt, bacteria and mucus from the nasal cavities. The saline solution will toughen up the nasal membranes so they are less susceptible to infection and allergy. Some people even report that it helps in giving up smoking!

There are many different shaped neti pots besides the one pictured. The way to use them is to use a mildly saline solution of water. Use sea salt if available, and not iodised salt in the proportion of on teaspoon for half a litre of water, which is the same as human blood. The water should be around body temperature, slightly warmer is better than cooler. Test as for a baby's bottle. You turn your head one the side and insert the spout of your pot into the upper nostril and allow the water to drain through the nasal passages and out the other nostril until half the solution is gone. Gently blow out through both nostrils to clear and then repeat on the other side.

Now take a deep forward bend, uttanasana, and look towards the floor, breath in through the mouth and out through the nose. Then look towards your knees and again breathe in through your mouth and out through your nose. Some water may drain. Come up gently and do some rapid sniffing breaths, first through both nostrils, in and out, and then through each nostril individually. This will dry the nasal passages.

(First published in "On the Mat", the newsletter of Yoga Spirit Studios.)

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