What Does Cleaning Have to do With Yoga?

Over the summer my yoga practice has evolved from a more physical practice to a more inward, self-study and self awareness practice. Like many parents, my schedule was completely changed with the summer break, and my ability to attend regular yoga classes diminished. My at home practice was also severely hampered by the fact that any time I was on the floor, my gigantic four in a half year old took that as an invitation to get all WWF wrestler on me and pile drive my back. So in an effort to avoid hospitalization, I allowed my yoga practice to take on a more spiritual and introspective quality. This is what I discovered.

Cleaning up is yoga.

Ok, I am not a clean freak. My husband and I can abide a shocking level of disarray in our home before either one of us begins to reach for a broom or a mop. We are the kind of people that wash a weeks worth of laundry and then fail to fold it.  So we spend the next week pulling from a pile of clean clothes and trying not to mix the clean clothes up with the dirty clothes.

Clutter seems to be our true state of being,

Clutter seems to be our true state of being, and it is evident by every surface in our home being covered by whatever we happened to put there. Said materials may be in that spot for months on end, until the pile grows to an unseemly sight and we finally tackle the mountain, revealing a surface that has gone unseen for weeks. What I am trying to communicate to you is that cleaning is really not a priority for us and I suspect that the reason we clean is mostly if we have company over. We try to have guest over at least once or twice a month.

So now that you have a glimpse into my world of disarray, let me tell you how my yoga became cleaning.

As I mentioned before getting to the yoga studio was not happening much, except for when I was teaching. So I began to consider the inward work of yoga, the Yamas and the Niyamas.

Yamas are the way we interact with the world. Niyamas are the way we conduct ourselves in the world.

It was this summer that I started to give some thought to the Niyama- Saucha. Saucha means purification or cleanliness. I wondered why it was so important to clean as a yogi. What did cleanliness have to do with yoga?


As a way of moving into this idea and experiencing it to discover the answer, I began to pay more attention to the clutter and what the clutter revealed about my inner world. When I was feeling the most stressed, under pressure, and overwhelmed, I found that my home environment would reflect that. Clothes strewn about on the floor. Kitchen table covered with paper and books and dirty dishes. Carpet littered with cat hair and sand from my kid’s shoes.

I began to ask myself questions about what was causing the inner stress.  In looking for answers and a way to calm the storm, I began to clean. I can’t always make sense of my inner world, but I felt that if I could de-clutter the kitchen table, maybe I would be able to get a glimpse of what was going on inside of me.

When my room was a holy shit show, I would tell myself just one piece of clothing at a time, just one piece of paper at a time. When the kitchen looked like it had thrown up all over itself and dishes were piled up on every surface, I would tell myself, just one dish as time. Breath in and wash. Breath out and dry.

I became aware of how good I felt when I had conquered another surface, or vacuumed another room. When I could sit on the couch because it was no longer cluttered with everything that we owned. The bathroom has always been my favorite place to clean. It is the one area of my home that I make an effort to clean a couple times a week, but now I was even concerned with picking up towels on the floor, putting things in cabinets and keeping the counter space clear.

The more I cleared my space of clutter, the clearer my internal space became. The more I became calm,  the more able I was to focus on breath and meditation and self-study. The intrinsically yogic principles.

Now my son is back in school. I can return to my physical practice. However I find that the time I give to cleaning, actually helps me to focus more intently on my physical practice and on my breathing and meditation practice. It’s interesting that some say “cleanliness is next to godliness”, and that yoga teaches us to find the divine within. As I have focused more on the cleanliness of my environment, I have been able to find more space for contemplation, which in turn has led me to a deeper spiritual awareness of God/ Divinity/Universe (or whatever else you would like to call it).  I have been led into a deeper awakening through the practice of cleaning.

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