Every Tuesday and Friday morning I used to have a yoga class in the studio that I created in my basement. The space is also used by my very active family as a driving range, batting cage, weight room, movie theatre, gymnastics studio, and bedroom.
It's actually quite impressive that I was able to transform the room (which often looks like a tornado came through) into a peaceful and zen like space to practice yoga.
Oftentimes, in my haste to get the room ready, instead of putting things into their proper places, I would just shove them quickly into the closet and slam the door shut. I had been doing this for quite a while and the closet was beginning to protest. In fact, the door had begun to change shape as it's contents threatened to burst out.
As the closet got more and more cluttered, I often hoped that no one would open the door and find out my secret!
One day as I approached the misshapen door, with weighted vest in hand, I was reminded of a cartoon. I imagined the door trembling as it attempted to keep the mess inside and hidden from view. Since I also wanted to keep the mess inside and hidden from view, I saw myself quickly opening the door just enough to shove the vest in there. After I imagined myself slamming the door shut and hoping for the best, the closet door buckled and then burst open knocking me onto the ground where I lied trapped under the weighted vest, soccer balls, hula hoops, winter coats, golf clubs, exercise bands and baseball bats.
In the Path of the Yoga Sutras, Nicolai Bachman defines yoga as a gradual purification of all layers of the individual self.
Sauca is a personal practice of keeping the body, mind, and heart clean and clear.
On the outer most layer, the practice of sauca would require not just cleaning out my closet, but keeping it neat and clean on an ongoing basis.
The clutter in our surroundings can add to the clutter in our minds. Closing the door on my messy closet didn't make the mess go away. Just knowing what was behind the door weighed on my mind as I tried to hide it or pretend that it wasn't. Most of us know the feeling of spaciousness and relief that we get when we clean up our desk, our car, our garage, or our junk drawer.
To purify the layer of our physical bodies, we practice asana (yoga poses). We also eat as cleanly and healthfully as possible, choosing organic foods and reducing our consumption of processed or junk foods. We might even fast or do a cleanse to clean out our sluggish digestive systems.
At the layer of our breath, we practice pranayama or conscious breathing as a way to purify and cleanse our lungs, heart, and circulatory system.
As we move inward towards the layers of our hearts and minds, sauca becomes a practice of being aware of our thoughts and emotions so that we can mindfully rid or purify ourselves of negative, angry, violent, or judgemental thoughts about ourselves and others. This purification practice might require forgiveness or letting go of grievences and resentments that we hold onto. In an attempt to purify our hearts and minds, we might also stay away from people or places that affect us in a negative or toxic way.
When we attempt to hide, push down, or deny the "messiness" in our lives, (like I did with my closet), we not only create a mind, body, and heart that is sluggish and cluttered by all the stuff, but at some point all that we push down will find a way to come out. My closet door changed its shape in order to hide its contents. Our bodies, minds and hearts are also shaped by the junk that we put in them. Our bodies may develop an illness, an injury or excess weight. Our minds may become delusional, confused, or unclear, and our hearts may become bitter, closed off or shut down.
The more junk we layer onto our surroundings and into our bodies, our hearts and minds, the less we are able to connect to our higher self or as the yogis call it our parusha. When we purify and cleanse the layers of our being, we are sure to find that our inner most layer always is, always was, and always will be, to put it simply, PURE LOVE.
After a particularly challenging yoga class, a student said to me, "I was really agitated in class today. I am not sure why. I saw myself wanting to be angry at you for making me struggle, but instead I kept breathing and going back to myself."
Every time we struggle in any part of our lives, we have been given an opportunity to learn about ourselves.
Had my student blamed me for giving her poses that made her struggle, she would have missed that opportunity.
Instead, using the tool of her breath, she chose to use her struggle as a way to stay connected to herself.
The practice of yoga is about discovering ourselves. The belief that we are all perfect and whole at our center is one of the main teachings. Svadhyaya or self observation and study is a commitment that we are encouraged to undertake through our practice.
It's not always easy to look at ourselves honestly and with our eyes wide open. Its much easier to blame others for our problems, or look the other way when we make a mistake or act in a way that feels unbecoming.
Winston Churchill said, "I am always able to learn, but not always willing to be taught."
Looking for someone to blame or becoming defensive when things or people in your life become challenging is an indication that you are "not willing to be taught."
Learning from your mistakes and taking ownership of your actions shows that you are.
Through self observation we can learn to change our habitual tendencies. When we look honestly at our behaviors, reactions, motivations, and strategies we may see that underlying it all is our attempt to protect our self image or ego.
Getting past the ego can be quite a challenge, but when we do, our relationship to ourselves and others will benefit.
Using our challenges and struggles as an opportunity to grow gives us the freedom to be courageous, strong, and centered no matter what life brings.
All Abhyasa Ahimsa Aparigraha Asmita-Ego Attachment Baron Baptiste Beginner's Mind Bramacharya Carl Jung Clear Seeing Colorless Comfortable Discomfort Creating Spaciousness In Mind And Body Cultivate The Opposite Deepak Chopra Dharma Empty Your Cup Enthusiasm Equanimity Family Fight Or Flight Great Vows Inner-awareness Inner Critic John Kabbatzinnb2faff332d Listening Mirrors To Ourselves Monkey Hunting Non Stealing Patanjali Pause Pillar Pleasure And Pain Posseses Us Practice Pratipaksa Bhavana Pratyahara Present Moment Present Moment Awareness Respond Instead Of React Samadhi Samskara Santosha Satya Sauca Sensual Pleasures Shadow Side Spirituality Steadiness And Ease Sthira And Sukha Strength Sustained Attention Svadhyaya There You Are Thich Nat Hahn This Too Shall Pass True Self Uncertainty Universal Truth What We Possess Wherever You Go Wisdom Yoga Philosophy Yoga Sutra 1. 14 Yoga Sutra 1.33 Yoga Sutra 2.33 Yoga Sutra 2 37cfe9965fa2 Yoga Sutra 2. 46 Yoga Sutras