The first of the niyamas or ethical restraints set forth by Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras is sauca, which means cleanliness or purification. BKS Iyengar in his Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali says that sauca is both internal and external and that mastery of yoga is unrealizable without observance of the ethical principles of the yamas and niyamas [non-harming, truthfulness, non-stealing, aligning with the good, greedlessness, cleanliness, contentment, fire for practice, self-study, and acceptance — my definitions] is not possible.
What does cleanliness mean in this time in our society? Scrubbing the kitchen and bath with toxic cleaners and slathering ourselves with chemical products and taking long showers may make our house and body look and feel clean, but it is soiling the earth. It is definitely easier to practice in a neat room than a messy one, but we need to learn how to be clean also keeps the earth’s environment clean as well.
Earlier this week, I started cleaning out the “art closet.” I have always created visual art, and before I shifted to teaching yoga, I spent a number of years creating at a wild pace (partly at the encouragement of a live-in partner), using a room in my house as a studio, and exhibiting and selling my work. One side effect of that intense period of creation (and one of the key reasons I shifted away from it), was that it created a lot of stuff — for every painting or photograph I sold or gave as a gift, another five or eight accumulated in the house. When I entered yoga teacher training, I turned the art studio into a yoga studio. I was unable at that time to make a decision as to what to keep and what to discard. Thus paralyzed, I put it all in a closet — art works and extra supplies alike.
Having a closet full of stuff long untouched and only some of which was wanted makes a house energetically stale. Finally, this week, I cleaned out most of the painting materials. I even decided not to keep images that I did not want to sell or exhibit again. It was tempting just to break everything up and put it out on the curb for trash. But the stretchers for the canvas are completely reusable by a working artist. So I took the paintings apart and and then did a posting on “freecycle dc” offering the art supplies. If you are not familiar with freecycle, it is pretty simple. You join the group in your area and let people know what you have to give away. Nothing is for sale. Nothing is bartered. The point is to transfer something you no longer want to someone who wants/needs it. The recipient is local, so only limited fossil fuels are used to transfer the goods. What you no longer want is saved from the landfill.
I’ve cleaned my closet. Another artist will be creating new art with old materials instead of new. Less goes into the landfill. That’s a great example of sauca.