Journal: The External Practice Of Saucha

Saucha JournalThis week as we explore the external practice of Saucha/cleanliness our journal reflections encourage you to explore how the state of the space around you affects your inner state. Make a cup of tea (or something similarly delicious) and take some time to journal and contemplate the following questions:

How do you feel when your space is cluttered and/or unclean?
(How does it affect your ability to relax? To create? To work? To think? To rest? To enjoy unexpected company?)
How do you feel when your work/home space is clean and tidy?
(How does it affect your ability to relax/create/work/think/rest or enjoy unexpected company?)

Is there one place in your home that makes you feel particularly calm or happy when it's clean and clear?

What simple habits or routines would help you to keep that space clear?

Saucha: How to Clean Your Yoga Mat

In our saucha practice I'm not going to tell you how to clean your house or how to take a shower, however it's not always clear how to care for our yoga mats!

Jade mats banner

If you bought your mat from the studio in the last 6-12 months, it's a Jade yoga mat. These are amazing grippy mats, but some yoga mat cleaners could do more harm than good if they contain essential oils. Essential oils clog up Jade mat's 'pores' which over time will make it slippery and ineffective. Cleaners that contain alcohol and petroleum based solvents can also damage the mat and break it down. Remember to keep your mat out of direct sunlight when storing or drying as these eco-friendly mats will start to break down in sunlight.

Thankfully keeping your Jade mat clean is super easy!

For regular maintenance and routine cleaning, wipe down your mat with a damp cloth after your practice. Allow your mat to dry before rolling up and storing. For a regular practice this can be weekly, but if you have a vigorous practice you may prefer to do this after every use.

For a deeper clean, mix up a solution of 3 parts water: 1 part white vinegar. (We always have a bottle of this mixture available in the studio). Spray your mat all over then rinse with hot water or wash off with a cloth to get rid of any vinegar-y smell. Hang or lay flat to dry before storing.

Contemplation On The Physical Practice of Saucha/Cleanliness

saucha 2

I'd like you to consider how your physical surroundings affect your inner state and day to day experience. Imagine the following two scenarios and consider how you would feel before, during and after the yoga practice for each story. Please also take moment to consider how other yogis in your class may be affected by your actions and energy in each case.

Scenario 1:

You're running late; you stayed in bed until the last possible moment and now you're regretting it. Falling over clothes and shoes as you get up, you're certain that there's a gremlin living in your home whose sole purpose in life is to challenge you in the morning. How else could everything you need be missing every day? You eventually locate a top that will do; you don't like it but you can't see the wood for the trees in your closet and it stresses you out to spend any more time in there than is absolutely necessary. You find a sports bra among the used clothes on the floor and give it a cursory sniff to make sure it's not too offensive; it's borderline but will do as long as you don't get too close to anyone. After a frantic search you find your car keys under the pile of yesterday evening's mail, glance at the pile of dishes in the kitchen sink, make a wish that the dish-washing-fairy would stop by, and fly out of the house.

Driving at breakneck speed to the yoga studio, clock-watching the whole way, you feel like you hit every single red light in town. Then, as the road narrows to single lane traffic, you end up behind a driver that moves at a glacial pace. Arriving late, you run into the studio, heart racing and flustered, and quickly try to unravel your mat out of its mashed up state to put on the studio floor. It won't lay flat because it's been shoehorned into a corner of your car since the last time you used it, and it has a slightly iffy smell – somewhere between sweaty and wet-dog. You hope your mat-neighbour doesn't notice. It's wonky but you don't feel like you have time to faff so jump into the practice and try to shake off the hurried and anxious feelings you're experiencing. As you start to flow and move those feeling start to settle, but they're replaced by a feeling of unease every time you're in downdog and look at the wrinkles and grime in your mat. You start to dread the prospect of any face down poses. You're distracted in your wide legged forward fold by your handbag that you threw on top of the prop rack as you entered. You wonder if anyone else is looking at it too. It's overflowing with receipts, sweet wrappers and miscellaneous junk you've shoved in there. You contemplate the potential correlation between the weight of this overflowing bag and the shoulder pain you've been feeling lately. You're moving through the practice but can't help wondering if anyone else is aware of the smell drifting up from your mat, or is it your sports bra? you've spent most of the session praying that the instructor doesn't come to assist you in a pose.

It's the end of class and time to relax. You try to enjoy the peaceful environment of the studio but can't help but think about how you need to give the dog a bath. Or your mat. Or both. You ponder the logistics of cleaning both at the same time. Then, in the middle of meditation you're struck with the horrible feeling your phone isn't silenced. Panic and dread start to set in. You arrived in such a rush you're not sure if it's on or off. You spend the remainder of your meditation willing your phone to stay quiet. 'What is the etiquette for unsilenced phones?' You wonder. 'Do I get up and turn it off? I'll be so embarrassed! Do I just pretend like it's not mine? Please don't ring, please don’t ring. Why do i have that stupid song as my ringtone? I'll die if it goes off now, please don't ring!'

With the prospect of an unwelcome phone interruption you're on high alert and every second feels like an eternity. The moment class is finished so you leap up and quickly check that it's off. You bundle up the studio blanket you used and shove it haphazardly into the prop rack, falling over the shoes that you left randomly in the middle of the floor. You scrunch your mat back up and wrestle it into some carriable form and pin it under your arm, pick up your water, erupting bag, car keys and now-silenced phone. You notice you left your other props out on the floor but your hands are too full to want to mess with them so figure someone else will put them away. You dash out of the studio hoping to get to the car without dropping everything and hurry home.

Scenario 2:

You wake up early feeling a little sleepy but easily navigate from your bed to your bathroom and step into a warm shower. You get out of the shower feeling fresh, a little more awake and ready for the day ahead. Everything is where you expect it to be so getting ready in the morning is simple. Your recently paired-down wardrobe means it's always easy to find clothes that fit and are clean. No longer do you have to wade through clothes that don't fit or which you don't like; picking out clothes is a breeze. You drink some coffee and eat a light breakfast while reading a few pages from your current book. You take the time to clean up your dishes and put away your coffee pot, then glance around at your home feeling content and calm. You remove your car keys from their hook, pick up your yoga mat and bag, and leave with plenty of time to get to the studio. You're stopped along the way but see red lights and slow drivers as an opportunity to slow down and breathe, and you still arrive a little early. As you enter the studio you take off your shoes and put them on the rack, silence your phone, and put it in your bag with your car keys, which you hang near your shoes. You carefully unroll your mat to face the front, straightening it up so that you feel aligned with the room and spend a few moments catching up with your instructor. You take the props you need from the racks and place them next to you before taking a seat and settling into the space in preparation for your practice. You feel so comforted when you're on your yoga mat, and the studio is welcoming and calming. Some days you spend moments before the practice enjoying the company of fellow yogis chatting and making new friends, other days you sit quietly or lay on a bolster and begin to breathe away any stress you've been feeling. You feel like your mat is an island of calm in a fast paced world; a place where it's ok to be still. You enjoy your practice and its challenges, and stay on your mat for a short time after the practice has ended to enjoy the feeling of calm you cultivated. As yogis around you start to get up, you too start to move. You carefully refold your blanket and place it back in the rack ready for the next yogi that needs it. You put all your props back as you found them and roll your mat up, putting it in its carry strap so it won't unravel in your car. Retrieving your personal items from where you left them and sliding on your shoes, you say your goodbyes to your classmates and step outside ready for the day ahead.

An Introduction to Saucha

sauchaYogic texts are a yogi's guide to peace, freedom and contentment. In the 8 limbed path of yoga, alongside the physical practice, breath practice and meditation there are suggested guides and restraints (non harming, non stealing, being truthful, conserving vital energy and non grasping) called the yamas. There are also some personal observances or 'niyamas' that can help us along the path to peace. The first of these niyamas is called 'saucha' which translates as purity or cleanliness.

As with many of the yogic practices, the words we use to translate from sanskrit to English can affect how we approach the practice:

In western yoga, the translation most commonly used for saucha is 'cleanliness'. This interpretation leads to a very physical expression of the niyama and it's where we'll begin our exploration.

What does a physical practice of cleanliness mean in relation to a yoga practice and daily life, and why is it important? Maybe you've heard of the expression 'tidy desk, tidy mind'; when our living spaces are cluttered and untidy, it can be difficult to relax or find things when we need them. If our yoga space is cluttered it can be difficult to stay present in our practice. If our wardrobes are chaotic they cause stress and overwhelm before we even begin the day. If our desk is burdened with an abundance of paperwork it can be difficult to work or stay on task. This is how a physical practice of saucha can help. Clearing and cleaning our environment allows us to relax, create or be focused. Having a place for items in the home means less time is wasted searching for them. A clear desk in the morning allows us to start fresh with whatever we set our minds to. An organised and simplified wardrobe makes getting ready a breeze. A clean and tidy environment can positively affect our experience in the moment. I'm not implying that we must be over the top and obsessive; as a creative person I know that many of my best work comes out of a slightly crazy workspace, but I know that if I take the time to find some sense of order at the end of each day, the next day will begin clear and focused rather than overwhelmed and confused!

I'd like to invite you to the practice of Saucha. Over the next few days and weeks, start to observe how clutter and disorder affects your mindset, whether it be in your home, at your desk or place of work, or even in your car. As we do so often in our practice, lets begin on the outside and work our way in!