weeding the mind

In the underbelly of the garden, Eileen Delehanty Pearkes examines sauca: inner and outer cleanliness.

photo by daniel séguin, www.genestho.ca

One spring, a neighbour gave me a truckload of horse manure for my garden. Knowing nothing at the time about the various virtues and flaws of one form of manure over the other, I accepted it gratefully and with enthusiasm. Only later, when spring began to ease into summer, did I learn why many gardeners turn down this particular manure. Although horse manure is rich in nitrogen and other potent plant foods, it is also loaded with weed seeds.

...The first of the five niyamas listed in the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali is ?auca, or, cleanliness. The niyamas form the second in the eight-limbed tree of yoga that Patanjali describes in this classic yoga text. The limb that precedes niyama is yama, a collection of five principles that guide the natural, ethical behaviour of a person in relation to others. The five niyamas that follow guide behaviour toward the self. ?auca, keeping clean and orderly, is a basic foundation of self-care.

Until I began to practice yoga, and even for several years after that, cleanliness was something that concerned outer presentation only – my hair, my body, my clothing, my home. The more I practised, I found myself influenced by the broader implications of the principle of ?auca, long before I had ever heard the term. I learned about how a twist or a forward bend could compress the various inner organs and when released, inspire fresh blood to flood the area and carry away toxins. I also learned to watch my thoughts as they jumped around, struggling to accept what I was doing on my mat.

As I held posture after posture, year after year, the chatter in my head began to slow down. It grew less insistent. It shifted ever so gradually away from judgement, comparison and helplessness to a calm counting of the breath and an acceptance of the present moment. Slowly, ever so slowly, yoga has weeded my mind, bringing about greater clarity and order, as well as a sense of evenness and peace …


Eileen Delehanty Pearkes practises Ashtanga Yoga and lives in Nelson, BC.  She is the author of The Geography of Memory and co-author of The Inner Green. The Glass Seed will be released by Timeless Books in autumn 2007. Eileen’s exploration of the yamas and niyamas will continue in the next issue as she interprets brahmacarya (highest modification of the senses).


Copyright ©2007 ascent magazine, first Canadian yoga magazine, yoga for an inspired life