When I first started practicing Yoga I was fortunate enough to have a teacher who gave me “homework” and encouraged my to undertake a short home practice a couple of times a week. There were some parts of my body, mostly my legs, which had considerable restriction due to years of being an athlete and countless hours standing in kitchens as a professional chef. I took my teacher’s suggestion and began to do a little bit at home. I was noticing the benefits of a regular home practice and enjoying yoga so much that I began to extend progressively the length of my practice.
While motivation was not an obstacle, I discovered my somewhat cluttered house and dirty floors were. Each time I began a practice, I would settle into the routine I followed at the time – drawing awareness to my breath, starting with gentle movements, and perhaps eventually finding a downward facing dog. By this time my eyes would start to notice things in my practice space that were untidy – a cluttered pile of books, dust bunnies and dirt collected on the floor, or, in those instances when I practiced in my kitchen, cabinets that were unspeakably dirty. Inevitably, I would decide that these distractions were unbearable and I would do enough cleaning that I felt more relaxed. From there, I would return to downward dog and breathe a sigh of relief. But I would simultaneously feel a bit defeated that I had been distracted from my practice.
Eventually one of my teachers introduced me to the Yamas (restraints) and Niyamas (observances), one of which is Sauca, or cleanliness. While there are greater implications to the observance of Sauca than keeping my kitchen tidy and the dust bunnies away from the perimeter of my practice space, I took to heart that the practice of Yoga could involve all aspects of my life, including chores. I decided to try to embrace the pattern of cleaning either before or during my session, and that my yoga practice and day-to-day activities might be more comprehensively intertwined.
Over the years I have learned that it is best to clean my practice space before starting my chanting or asana practice for better continuity. During this time preparing my yoga space, I look fondly at the pictures of my guru, draw awareness to my breath, chant quietly or notice the mechanics of the movements I am making. The process of cleaning has gradually become infused with the same awareness that I attempt to cultivate though yoga, facilitating greater ease and less frustration. While I still endeavor to see greater connection and integration between my everyday activities and my yoga practice, I appreciate that I can now smile when I feel the need to collect a dust bunny during downward dog.