This summer at Yoga School, my colleagues and I tore into Chapter 2 of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. This is a chapter I’ve gotten a lot out of and it’s been less than two weeks since the course finished. No doubt about it, I’m a through and through Chapter 2 kind of yogini.
What appeals to me is it is a very pragmatic chapter. It talks about METHOD. What’s the cause of suffering and how do we end up there and most importantly, how we get out of suffering. How do we make it stop?
It’s also been a very “uncomfortable” chapter for me to read because it’s put the mirror right in front of my nose and there’s been no way to avoid where I fall ‘short’ of the yogic ideals that live in my head. For me, the week’s study was a huge exercise in ‘getting real and keeping it real”.
Now way back when I did my original 200 hour teachers’ training, like every other aspiring yoga teacher, regardless of tradition, I studied the yamas and niyamas. They’ll be discussed later this year in this blog column because they are part of chapter 2 but they’re frequently ‘extracted’ for early study because they form the backbone of the yoga code of ethics. Most yoga teachers, regardless of tradition, have implicitly ‘signed on’ to using the yamas and niyamas in daily life. The yamas are about codes of conduct in relationship to others while the niyamas are the codes of conduct for my relationship with me. Saucha is the first of the niyamas and it translates to “cleanliness’. Now in yoga speak, cleanliness means more than having a daily shower. It’s about cleanliness of our surroundings, our body, and our general environment.
In the past year, since my heart disease diagnosis, I have seriously fallen off the saucha truck. While my family have done a good job at keeping up with the basics of the day to day – dishes are done, bathroom is done on a regular basis – the rest of the house has gone to rack and ruin. I’m currently awash with clutter. There isn’t a square centimetre of this house that couldn’t do with a good scrubbing. For the record, this isn’t about some imaginary Martha Stewart, Good Housekeeping Standard. The disarray of possession and plunder is sapping my energy. My house is full of tangled energy and I really feels it’s taking its toll on me – mentally, physically and spiritually. I’m already behind the proverbial 8-ball on the energy front given that a considerable chunk of my heart doesn’t work. Clutter and messiness everywhere I look feels overwhelming. I feel very fractured and when I sit down to rest, I feel anything but restful. Although fatigue is and remains a real daily challenge for me, I’m really starting to appreciate how important saucha is to my state of well-being and I don’t mean that in a germaphobic way.
So, one of my projects from this coming year is what I’ve dubbed The Saucha Project. It’s a practice, as much as meditation or postural work is a practice. Every day I tackle a new little project. This weekend past it was new bed linens and starting to organize a dedicated yoga space for my daughter and me to use this winter. There are closets to be cleaned and many accumulated things to be purged. It’s time to let go of things that no longer serve me well. I’ve hung onto too many things for too many years because there were memories attached to them.
I’m posting this practice because this year I’m really trying to emphasize to people that yoga is not JUST postural work. My saucha project is as much yoga as rocking a full scorpion. The key to making it yoga, as opposed to just another chore list, is presence. The idea is to not turn on the radio and speed my way as quickly as possible through the ‘to do’ list. My intention is to do this clean-up in a yogic manner; that is, to be present and aware though the entire experience. When I’m vacuuming the floor, I’ll really be vacuuming the floor – body, mind and spirit, fully present and aware in the experience.
I’ll keep you posted on how this experiment works out. Thanks for reading and Namaste,