For my first homework assignment as a yoga teacher trainee, my classmates and I were tasked with the challenge of diving deeper into the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali—more specifically, the Eight Fold Path of Yoga.
For those unfamiliar with this framework, it is a fundamental blueprint for one’s yoga practice and is divided categorically into eight limbs. The yamas and the niyamas, two of the first limbs to be included in Sage Patañjali’s work, exist as core reminders of moral principle. While the yamas help us to navigate our relationships with others and the outside world, the niyamas function in relation to ourselves.
It is through this balance of both universal morality and personal observance that we are better fit as human beings to truly cultivate balance between mind, body and spirit.
And though this sounds like quite a lofty undertaking for first week teacher trainees, I was relieved to learn we were starting small, each choosing only one characteristic or rule to exercise. Quickly my eyes and my heart navigated toward the niyamas, stopping at saucha, the first on the list. Commonly translated to mean “cleanliness,” saucha is a multilayered concept that challenges us to purify.
As someone who has struggled much of my life with anxiety, I was excited to dive deeper into the act of physically clearing space, organizing and hopefully creating a more relaxed environment for myself. So I began my approach quite literally.
However, what I did not anticipate was the powerful impact it would have on a much more meaningful level.
I started off my morning with a car wash, complete with a lavender air freshener and all. I then continued on to my home, and by the afternoon you could say I was a bonafide cleaning machine. Throughout the day I went drawer by drawer, navigating my way from one corner of each room to the next. Within a few hours I had collected a full bag of clothing to donate, I had disposed of products that were out of date or expired and I had rid myself of things I hadn’t used (and in some cases even noticed) in years. When all was said and done my day of saucha exploration moved by pretty quickly, and I felt both physically and emotionally lighter.
But as I lay on my clean, freshly washed sheets, I started to wonder: what it was that had kept me from letting go of these things earlier?
That day of purification and ultimately, accidental reflection, struck something in me. Something up until now, I guess I never truly recognized I had—the innate power to make room. In literally creating space, saving only things I loved and organizing areas of my life I had inadvertently avoided, I found I had the strength to do the same within. If it is true that our surroundings really do reflect our state of mind, then for the first time in my life I was in a place to genuinely cleanse (and calm) from the inside out.
From this task, I learned that practicing saucha wasn’t so much about throwing away expired medicine bottles or donating things I didn’t need (although both of those things were great) as it was about understanding the peace that comes with letting go.
I am not attached to my thoughts or my fears or my anxieties any more than I am attached to those belongings I gave up. And ultimately, I alone am in control of what I release. You see, saucha isn’t just an exercise to be explored in your home or even on your mat, it is an ever-evolving process that begins and ends within—and it can be pretty cathartic if you let it.
Author: Sam Maracic
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: Emily May/Flickr