Why I Stopped Cleaning My Yoga Space (And You Should Too)
Before you get your hanky pankies up in a bunch and start spraying about saucha, hear me out.
I have a little problem. One I’ve known about, but couldn’t get to the bottom of, until recently. I like to be in control.
The sarcastic voice of my inner truth is like, Umm, you mean you’re a control freak?!
My ego, all defensive, is like, No!
The Inner Struggle
That’s the battle that would go on inside me while I would storm around the kitchen, slamming cabinets because things weren’t cleaned or put away properly by a certain, a-hem, someone, who I was simultaneously staring at sideways with stink eye.
I might be slightly exaggerating, you’d have to ask said dirty-kitchen-man, but you get the idea.
When the kitchen was a mess, or the floor, or the sheets, or… I couldn’t relax. Some part of my mind was stuck on the disharmony it created. The agitation would eat at me until I’d get up and clean it.
My Yoga Space
In my yoga practice it meant I’d have to prepare the space *perfectly* before I could practice. That internal conversation was something like this:
Ego: It’s a sacred space, I have to purify it and keep it clean. Yoga is special and I need to differentiate this time and space from everything mundane. Ritual and purity are yogic practices.
Inner Truth: Gotta make the bed so it looks nice in here and I can relax. (I practice in the bedroom) God, all that dust on the baseboard is so gross, how can Aaron (my husband) not notice?! Now that everything is just how I like it I can do yoga.
A Simple Misunderstanding
While both of these attitudes hold some truth, there’s a problem.
What kind of yoga are you practicing if it can only be done under certain, special circumstances? Only in the perfect yoga studio, with the perfect teacher… And how is it actually helping you deal with challenging life situations that you can’t control?
When we talk about the niyama, saucha, I don’t think maniacally cleaning the space to within an inch of its life is what the sages of yore meant. I mean, they were practicing on dirt floors and all…
Of course they meant keep your body and your space clean, but they did’t mean go overboard. They also meant don’t get burdened by too much stuff, whether physical or the stuff of the mind —habitual thinking. Saucha is about cleaning out unhealthy patterns, like trying to control everything.
Living With The Mess
It IS easier to relax in a zen, minimal space. But there are times when life is just messy. And no matter what you do, you can’t clean it up.
If you have a lot of rules about how things need to be handled, or you find yourself thinking I should just do it myself all the time, or you come behind your spouse or co-worker and clean up after them, it might be time to let go of control.
What’s The Source?
From my observation, the people, including yours truly, that want to be in control the most, seem to be the most sensitive and introverted ones. Or they’re the ones who have been through the most trauma. Or some combination of both.
The urge to be in control is simply one to keep from getting hurt. It masquerades as perfectionism, peace keeping, and putting on a front that you have all your sh*t together. It’s exhausting.
And PS: no one has their sh*t together!
Only as I’ve begun to let the behavior go have I discovered just how much of my mental and emotional energy I was using. The real situation where I had no control was an event long in my past. Healing the original trauma has freed me up to relax and let go.
With letting go I’ve gained the ability to practice in an imperfect yoga space and to not worry when there’s a pile of dishes in the sink. I’ve also learned to accept my own imperfections, let them be seen by others, and accept theirs, too.
Maybe your work is centered around the past, like mine. Or perhaps you wish to control the future for anxiety that something bad will happen. Either way, it’s worth it to investigate what the real source of fear is. And maybe, just maybe, find peace in your practice somewhere kinda dirty.