This article was first published in Natural Awakenings, Atlanta (January 2019)
Decorating is one of my favorite holiday traditions. The annual unpacking of ornaments and accessories is my own personal Christmas, unwrapping the joys of holiday treasures collected, gifted and inherited. The fresh pine scent of the tree waves through the air, its branches trimmed in decades of memories and a lifetime of love. Softly lit adornments glimmer with warmth and hope throughout our home, the tree’s radiant glow filling the darker recesses of the room. Perhaps unabridged beauty or simply nostalgia inspires my sense of pure joy, but there is a quality to the holiday scene that renews my spirit of peace.
As much as I treasure the heartwarming, picturesque backdrop of the holidays, do you know what I enjoy more? Putting it all away. You read that right. Cleanliness soothes my soul. Holiday un-decorating in my house always includes a spring-cleaning of sorts: top-to-bottom dusting, scrubbing, mopping. Similar to the meditative mood I feel from the sights and sounds of the holiday, an orderly space brings me greater ease. My home, like my body and mind, are containers through which my life is expressed and experienced, and all operate more efficiently and effortlessly when they are well-kept. While house cleaning requires any number of tools depending on the task at hand, my primary mechanism for decluttering the inner house of my mind is yoga.
By definition, yoga is the cessation of the turnings of thought (citta-vritti-nirodha) and by its very nature, yoga provides the tools for cleansing the mirrors of our minds. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, one of yoga’s most well-known texts, proffers eight limbs, or practices, that lay out a path to peace. One practice is asana, or yoga posture, which is defined as “steadiness and comfort.” At the level of the physical practice, yoga postures should offer a sense of confidence, balance, ease. This is not to say a posture fails to challenge us; it is to say each personality (and all the components that contribute to one’s personality) experiences the posture in a unique way; where a handstand may be a challenge for one student, corpse pose may be an edge for an- other. Many years ago a student approached me after class and said, “ You know, I get really angry with you when you lead Bound Angle (Cobbler) pose.” To that I simply smiled and offered, “It sounds like that posture has something to teach you.”