We often talk about how to follow the yamas and the niyamas within our yoga practice. I haven't really spoken about them here but I should. It's important to not only embrace the physicality of yoga but also to at least understand the philosophies of yoga as well.
Saucha, often translated as cleanliness, is something yogis believe we should all practice. How do do this? Well, there are all kinds of cleansing techniques in the yoga tradition. There are some really intense traditional practices or klishas that might be a bit too extreme for us here. I have read about practices whereby the yogi would cleanse the body that I would never be able to do. They would wrap cotton cloth in salt water, stick it up one nostril and pull it out the other. I used to think moving things from one nostril to the other were magic tricks! Another one that you might be more familiar with is the use of netti pots to cleanse the sinuses. Yet another interesting one is where the yogi will swallow a large amount of salty water and then throw up to cleanse the stomach and digestive track. Lol whenever I throw up I cry so maybe this could be cleansing the digestive track and the tear ducts for me? On second thought, I'll pass on that one.
I've read all this stuff about Saucha and want to start small. Where do I begin? When was the last time you cleaned your yoga mat? It kills me when I ask this in the yoga classes that I teach. Usually the response is that my students have never even thought of cleaning their mats! Yikes! You clean your bed sheets, you clean your clothes... clean your yoga mats!!!
How you clean your yoga mat can be different depending on what kind of mat that you have. Many of the natural or rubber yoga mats won't take well to using essential oils. Some yoga mats don't do well with vinegar and water. The best is to see what the manufacturer says. My Liforme mat can't have essential oils. They're too harsh for the natural rubber and materials. My Manduka Mats actually have a recommended mat cleaner from Manduka. One for the travel mat that is the eKo type and the Pro which is not rubber based. Many mat companies also have homemade options for all of you who are the DIY type. I much prefer the DIY recipes but if you ever have a problem with your mat and need to return or exchange it, just be aware that they might ask how you clean it and might find that how you clean it is contributing to whatever problem you might be experiencing. For my Manduka mats, I just bought their cleaner. It saves me some time having to make it and I know I'm using what they recommend to clean it.
Cleaning my yoga mats is my first step in practicing the Niyama of Saucha (the practice of cleanliness). It also means you aren't going to unroll your mat one day and find a smelly surprise that could be embarrassing.
If you're reading this and you haven't cleaned your mat in a while or if you can't remember the last time you cleaned your mat, do it now!!!! GO! It's not a big effort but it will help your mat to perform at its best for you and it might smell a little nicer for your next yoga practice too.