Tidy Room, Tidy Mind: Purity and Sensitivity in Yoga
Children hate being told to clean their room. When having to choose between playing with their toys or putting them away, most children are going to always choose to play. But as we get older, most of us start to find joy in tidying up. Even when it takes us a while to build up the energy and motivation to start cleaning, by the time we’re done it was worth it. There’s something serene and calming about a clean office, living room, or bedroom.
But what is it about cleaning up that makes us feel so great?
In BKS Inyengar’s book, Light on life: The Yoga Journey to Wholeness, Inner Peace, and Ultimate Freedom, he writes:
The keys to unlocking our potential are the qualities of purity and sensitivity. The point about purity, or simply cleanliness as it is often called in yoga texts, is not primarily a moral one. It is that purity permits sensitivity. Sensitivity is not weakness or vulnerability. It is clarity of perceptions and allows judicious, precise action.
To put it another way, by working toward and seeking purity, we make room in our lives to be more receptive of the present moment. Rather than having our attention scattered by the multitude of things around us, we’re able to be more mindful of our surroundings. This mindfulness makes us more sensitive to our own emotions and physical body, as well as others in our lives.
This is why it is often easier to solve problems or engage in creative activities in a space that is tidy rather than cluttered.
In addition to the spaces around us, bodily purity and cleanliness also has a strong impact on our daily lives. Sauca (sometimes spelled Saucha), the first of the five niyamas, is the personal practice of maintaining a clean body and a clear heart-mind.
According to Nicolai Bachman’s The Path of the Yoga Sutras, “Our outer, physical shell is like a temple that temporarily houses this awareness. Keeping our temple clean makes it possible to connect with the divine radiance within.” Though our bodies are temporary and always changing, and therefore never fully pure, by seeking cleanliness and alignment through our diet, lifestyle, and yoga practice, our physical bodies will be free of their own version of clutter, making it easier for us to tap into that inner, eternal purity that flows through each of us. By tapping into this inner purity, it becomes easier for us to maintain balance in our emotions and in our relationships with others.
Having a yoga practice is the best way to cultivate purity in your daily life.
Within a yoga practice, learning and practicing asanas (postures) purifies our bodies by aligning our muscles, bones, and tissues. Through pranayama, we purify our breath. By following the eight limbs of yoga (ashtanga), we are able to purify the heart-mind.
Learning asanas, pranayama, and the eight limbs of yoga is most easily done by joining a yoga community, such as the one here at Your Yoga Louisville. Having a structured, scheduled way to practice and learn from an instructor doesn’t just make the process easier, but it also makes it fun.
In my own experience, I started to come to Your Yoga Louisville during a very stressful period of my life. Feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and out of shape, I began my yoga practice on a gamble, anticipating that it’d be a soon-abandoned foray into a new form of exercise.
But, the more I practiced, the more I fell in love with yoga and found myself naturally seeking out sauca in my life.
Little by little, I found myself wanting to spend more time tidying up so that I could feel relaxed and present in my apartment. Then, I realized that I was reducing the amount of animal products and alcohol I consumed on a regular basis. As I did, I also felt that my yoga practice deepened much quicker than before, and I wanted to attend every possible class that would fit in my schedule.
Through that process– these steps I took toward purification that stemmed from my yoga practice– I was able to let go of my stress, my aches and pains, and found myself feeling much more equipped to deal with daily life from a place of peace rather than stress. In cultivating sauca, I acquired a new sensitivity to myself and the multitude of people who intersected with my life, which, just as Iyengar said, gave me clarity of perceptions and allowed for judicious, precise actions.
Reaping the benefits of purity and sensitivity in your yoga journey doesn’t require swearing off material goods or getting stressed any time your home isn’t pristine; it’s a much easier shift in orienting ourselves to be present and free of distraction during our day-to-day lives. And if that’s something you’d like to nurture, stopping by the studio is the first step!