jump to navigation

On the cleanliness of trash: thoughts on saucha July 5, 2011

Posted by Simon Maxwell Apter in Essays.
Tags: , , , , ,
add a comment

Flickr photo by lara604.

One of life’s biggest hassles concerns proper maintenance and disposal of “yoga clothes.” Now, one need not practice yoga to have “yoga clothes”—you might have “work clothes,” or “lab clothes,” or “gardening clothes”–and when I played soccer as a kid, my yoga clothes comprised mud-and-grass-stained socks and shorts, sweat-soaked shinguards, and two (or three) pairs of soccer shoes with mud and dirt (mercifully) or dog doo (unmercifully) clotted around the cleats.

These inevitably reeked and in high school, I took to leaving empty soap boxes in my duffle bag to absorb some of the smell. At that time, my family bought Lever 2000 soap which had become, after its successful 1996 launch (That year, the company sent bar after bar of free samples to our house), the first non-Dove soap to be used in family showers (Though like Dove, Lever is a Unilever product). I preferred it as a deodorizer to other soaps because, quite frankly, it was the strongest stuff on the shelf. Seriously–you could open a box of Lever 2000 in Portland and they’d feel fresher in Seattle in less than five minutes.

After graduating from college, I pulled a three-year stint as a professional baker, and “bakery clothes” became the new yoga clothes. These were caked in flour, dribbled in egg white, and smeared with brown sugar, honey, and molasses; vanilla extract, butter, and blackberry juice; cake yeast, cinnamon, and the occasional mutilated raisin. Of course, those of us who wander into bakeries always marvel at the delightful smell wafting out of the ovens, but when the raw ingredients are concentrated, tinctured with sweat and early-morning funk, then caked onto a hardworking T-shirt, the resultant odor is decidedly less pleasant.

Today, of course, my yoga clothes are, well, yoga clothes, and though I need only contend with one adulterating substance–sweat–the problem is essentially the same as it was after soccer practice or a baking shift. You don’t have to practice Bikram Yoga to work up a sweat, and in my daily go-rounds at Jivamukti, I feel cheated if I haven’t soaked through an entire shirt within ten minutes of practice. When class is over, it’s not unusual for people to mistake me for having just taken a shower, not a yoga class.

I’ve always been drawn to activities that encourage making a mess. To me, there’s something satisfying in the temporary desecration of cleanliness, that is, in the physical manifestation of “breaking a few eggs to make an omelet.” In my mind, it helps strengthen one’s commitment to non-attachment; after all, when they’re seen as necessary ingredients in the creation or production of something beautiful (a tray of muffins, a yoga practice), how can “leavings” be considered any less esteemed than the final product? Those sweaty T-shirts are ingredients, not by-products, of my sadhana, and I try to regard them as such.

And if you’re able to confront so-called waste with admiration, then how can that consideration not then extend to everything we deem “essential” or “complete?” When you look at waste as the equivalent of produce, it then becomes imperative to treat it as such. You sort food, leaving perishables in the fridge, frozen food in the freezer, so why wouldn’t you sort recyclables, or hand-me-downs, or (if possible) compost? Venerating garbage (Well, that may be a bit extreme) makes taking out the trash, drying yoga clothes, recycling Coke cans, part of your practice, as necessary as asana to purify your body.

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: