Blog post by Mary Moscarello
This was my setup for teaching yoga from my living room during the first week of isolation – when yoga studios and other non-essential businesses were ordered to close. In order to make this happen, my family had to allow for a significant level of disruption to an already disrupted life.
I thank them.
But what you don’t see are the massive dust bunnies that lurked underneath where end tables and easy chairs once sat. My living room floor, at the moment that picture was snapped, had probably never been cleaner.
I don’t have photographic evidence of it, but other rooms in my house have withstood similar cleaning frenzies. My whole family is acutely aware of how necessary it is to keep things neat, tidy and clean. We are not slobs, but our house can get messy at times. My poem, “In This House” describes some of the home environment in which we live. There were days before COVID-19 isolation when I’d be horrified if I had surprise visitors. If we had a gathering to host, there was frenzied cleaning to make our home “presentable”.
Now, at any time, I’d welcome anyone gladly. Mostly because I’m missing physical contact with friends and loved ones but also because those visitors won’t see a mess. Cleaning my kitchen, my living room, my bathroom has become a daily task. By the way, my mom was right, if you clean a little every day – the job never gets too big.
Yet, the irony of cleaning as if I were going to have company when no company is coming is not lost on me.
How does this relate to yoga? Funny you should ask! The Niyamas rest on the second limb of Pantanjali’s eight-limbed path of yoga. First on this limb is the concept or practice of Saucha, or cleanliness, also thought to point to purity. For many yogis, Saucha refers to cleanliness of body, mind, spirit and surroundings and is a necessary aspect of life in order to live happily and fulfilled.
In one of the last classes (a yin/yang class that I wholeheartedly and enthusiastically RECOMMEND) I took before yoga studios had to close, the instructor, Nicola Watson had us focus on Saucha. She used it to help us get ourselves into our asana in a clean and pure way – while also helping us to understand that creating a clean environment extends beyond our physical experience. Throughout that practice,with her help, I got into one of my deepest ever expressions of humble warrior and – not at the same time, mind you – I became aware of how the first environment we have is our own body, our own mind.
When I stopped to think and compare the two actions – cleaning the sink and “cleaning the mind”, I observed that cleaning a bathroom sink is for all intents and purposes simple and easy, but disinfecting our own mind can be extremely difficult. Yet, we spend way less time in contact with that bathroom sink than we do with our own minds over the course of our lifetime. The human mind has an average of 60 to 80 THOUSAND thoughts a day. How many of them are pure? I don’t mean that in the prudish sense of the word – I mean, not negative, not self-harming or self-deprecating. How many of those thoughts are clean and free from infection of rage, envy or any thoughts that fail to lift us up?
You deserve to live in a tidy and neat space on the daily – obviously – but you will ALSO be ready at a moment’s notice to receive surprise guests into your home.
You deserve to live in a mind that is free from pollutants like negative self-talk, worry and fear. Cleaning the mind of these toxins has some obvious benefits.
- Gain a sense of calm.
- Provide space for creativity.
- Reduce stress.
- Lift your mood.
- Cultivate a sense of productivity.
So the point of this reflection my dear reader, is to clean your house for you and clean your thoughts for you. Both aspects (the literal cleaning of a thing and the metaphorical cleaning of your thoughts) of Saucha will help you in the long run.