Monday, July 20, 2015

Saucha: Clean up, Tidy up and Lighten up!

Look around this summer to see what your friends are reading--chances are you'll see this book on a beach or lawn chair: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. It's a New York Times bestseller. I've been seeing it and hearing a lot about it!

Though I'm not reading the book myself, I did spend a portion of this past weekend decluttering my home with my husband. We prepared 8 large moving boxes of adult and children's clothing and shoes along with a few useful appliances to be picked up today by a charitable Veterans organization. We normally donate to Goodwill, decluttering in little spurts a few times per year, but yesterday was much more thorough! My Virgo husband made it easier by devising a system and a schedule for us. We still have more work to do on our basement and garage, but we already feel much freer and lighter. My closet is empty of scary secrets!

Simplifying my life, making space and creating structure are all parts of my yoga practice. In yoga philosophy, there are five recommended personal observances for cultivating happiness and avoiding suffering. These are called the niyama. The first niyama is saucha, which means inner and outer cleanliness or purity. A home where saucha is faithfully observed will be orderly, clean, simple and light. Taking inventory, tidying up and simplifying our home brings more peace, ease and clarity to our life. It helps us to develop a sattvic, balanced energy, within and without. 

Once saucha is applied to any area of your life, it really does feel magical! Pulling all of the old clothes out of my closet, items from another era of my life (suits from 10 years ago when I worked as a lawyer) made me feel a little queasy, but looking at my closet now, I feel refreshed and liberated! 

How can we apply saucha in our postural yoga practice, in public spaces or at home? We can start with the basics by keeping mats and props clean, respecting others' practice space, putting our blankets, blocks and straps away in an orderly fashion; it's pretty straightforward, like preschoolers tidying their books and toys. Yet sometimes we forget! 

Finally, how does saucha show up as we move through our postures? We can find it in clean lines, careful alignment, cleansing breaths and orderly transitions. We can also experiment with decluttering our foundations, simplifiying, working with the idea that less is more (perhaps a smaller base, like standing on the balls of our feet) and seeing what that opens up. 

Try setting saucha as your intention the next time you practice, or if you teach, write a sequence around it. You may discover some long-lost essentials hiding under the clutter!

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