Your outer environment, like your home or work space, is a direct reflection of the inner workings of your mind. And because there’s a mind connection that means there’s a yoga for it. I call it the Yoga of Decluttering, and this simple process can free up more energy for you.
Yoga of Decluttering is also known as kriya yoga, and it’s my favorite form of yoga. While I may drift away from my asana practice, I never stray too far from kriya.
What? Not ready to believe there’s a yoga for decluttering? Maybe first consider some research into clutter and how it physically affects your brain.
UCLA researchers, after observing more than 30 Los Angeles families, found the mothers’ stress hormones spiked during the time they spent dealing with their belongings.
Then there are the researchers at Princeton University Neuroscience Institute whose study found, “Multiple stimuli present in the visual field at the same time compete for neural representation by mutually suppressing their evoked activity throughout visual cortex, providing a neural correlate for the limited processing capacity of the visual system.”
All this research and understanding is in the last few years which is what makes kriya yoga even more freaking amazing. It’s OLD SCHOOL (like 1000s of years old). So brain-clutter is not a modern day problem, it an age-old human problem.
The only difference is that kriya suggests the external reflects the internal, not the other way around. Your environment becomes a mirror for the junk in your head.
“Wait,” you say. “I thought you were talking about physical clutter. What’s all this mind talk?”
One doesn’t come without the other, and it’s hard to argue about what came first: the cluttered mind that breeds a cluttered environment or the cluttered environment that leads to cluttered thinking.
The Yoga Sutras talk a lot about avidya, an incorrect comprehension, or a way of perceiving that is habitual, and the practice of kriya is a way to reduce avidya.
Kriya yoga is another form of yoga that many people practice without realizing it. Kriya is a yoga of action (kr in Sanskrit means action, and ya loosely refers to one’s soul), so this three-stage process is a way of bringing harmony and balance to your soul.
Stage 1 | Burning Impurities
In the Sutras, we learn that we can’t control every thing or every thought that comes into our being so we use the practice of tapas, or burning impurities, to help rid our minds and bodies of those subtle, and not-so-subtle, excesses.
These are actions you take to create your healthiest mind, body and spirit. Consider the process of refining gold. To become valuable, gold must first be mined from ore then heated up and the impurities removed.
On a physical level, one way we can practice tapas is with breathing and asana. The deep breathing cleanses the body of old, stale oxygen and revitalizes it with fresh oxygen. Combined with postures and we create an internal and external heat good that feels detoxifying.
On a mental level, we can practice meditation. Meditation helps to clear our heads of unwanted thoughts and ideas. We get the chance to try on new beliefs, generate new thought patterns or conceive new ideas–none of which would be possible in a busy, cluttered mind.
Burning impurities in relation to decluttering can be tricky because most of us have no trouble holding on, it’s the letting go that kicks our butts.In the first stage, you want to identify the impurities so you can eventually let go of them. Impurities can show up as negative thoughts, negative energies, false beliefs, and cluttered environments.
In this easily disposable world, before you know it, you have more stuff than you know what to do with. Those extras keeping piling and stacking until you feel like your head might explode.
How do you know what to get rid of?
>Ask yourself: Does it drain my energy in any way?
If the answer is YES, then get rid of it. Nothing that drains your energy is worth keeping around, and that includes people.
Keeping your in-laws happy because they gifted you an ugly vase is not more important than having environment you love and live in 24/7. Maintaining a toxic friendship is not more important than your mental health and well-being.
Stage 2 | Self-Study
The second stage is called “self-study,” and in traditional kriya yoga, this is the study of spiritual and intellectual texts in order to help seekers understand the world around them, gain deeper insights during their own spiritual awakenings, and lead to more self-awareness.
Giving the second stage an update, this is the practice of “studying your true self,” an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of what makes you unique.
The first stage of burning impurities works directly with the second. When you remove the clutter, or distractions, confusion leaves too, making it easier for you to listen to your inner guide.
Stage 3 | Surrender to the Divine
The third and last stage is “surrender to the divine.” Surrender means understanding that something bigger connects us all, and then trusting this higher power to provide exactly what you need, when you need it.
Surrender DOESN’T mean letting go of your dreams and desires. It means having them and trusting the Universe to provide them or something better. It also doesn’t mean waiting around for results to happen.
The root of kriya is action, and for the process to be at its most powerful, you must learn to balance both action and letting go.
Just as self-study works hand-in-hand with burning impurities, the third stage provides value to the first two. Without surrendering, the other two stages are simply knowledge without freedom (something I know many of us are seeking).
Put it All Together
When you combine the three stages, Kriya becomes simply: “I need to train my senses, explore within, and let go of my attachments and aversions.”
In the individual stages, you’ll experience amazing results. Put them all together and that’s where the magic really happens. Kriya doesn’t discriminate. It works if you do the work, and it doesn’t matter why you choose to do it, whether you want to lose weight, follow your purpose, or have better work/life boundaries.
Losing your keys = losing your mind
Think about the last time you lost something. How stressed out did you get trying to find it? How much time did you spend searching? Probably more than you had to spare.
Kriya yoga teaches that in order for your mind to operate optimally it must be free of all the crap and junk, and the easiest way to help your mind release the clutter is to get busy cleaning up your physical environment.
As you clean up and clear out your physical surroundings, your body and brain take that in and start working the decluttering process on your subconscious level. Stuck with a problem you can’t solve? Go clean out your underwear drawer (seriously). While your hands and mind are focused on the task at hand, your little hamster mind is clicking away on the problem.
Like hatha yoga (the one with the postures), change happens on the physical level and then permeates deeper into our other layers. It’s the same for kriya. We cleanse our physical surroundings in order to help our minds and bodies cleanse the mental, emotional and spiritual baggage as well.
While some may find the task of cleaning closets and plastic dishware cabinets challenging, it is nothing compared to the cleansing of internal clutter.
We carry around crappy relationships, outdated friendships, worn out beliefs, mean bosses, bad attitudes, and suppressed emotions. These energy-drainers are like chain-link necklaces with gaudy gold anchors around your neck. Each one weighing you down until you feel like you’re drowning.
And after a while, you forget you’re under water. That becomes normal.
When something is so mis-aligned, it doesn’t get better. Like the pebble in your shoe, the longer you walk on it, the more pronounced the pain and frustration, but to a degree you get used to having that pebble in your shoe.
Letting go can be the hardest thing you ever do; however it certainly is the most liberating!
5 tips for making it better
To keep the decluttering process from overwhelming you, I’ve shared my five tips. (Flylady.net is where I really first learned about organization and one of her first “rules” is you can’t organize clutter.)
- Tackle only one area at a time. Pick an area and stay with it until it’s done. Kudos if you feel like you need to declutter your whole house, but don’t attempt to do it all in one weekend. That’s setting you up for failure.
- Start with something you can realistically finish in less than a day. I recommend your purse or your pantry. Let your mind have a sense of accomplishment before taking on the more daunting places like your closet or garage.
- Small, consistent steps are key, and this applies to the amount of time spent on decluttering as well. Go in short intervals, 15-20 minutes. If after the first interval, you feel like going for a second one, more power to you. When you’re dealing with a lot of clutter, overwhelm is common.
- Love it, use it or lose it. As you’re whittling away at the years of accumulated junk and you pause to debate whether to keep something, always ask yourself….”Do I absolutely LOVE this item? Or, do I use this item on a regular basis?” Maybe using it someday doesn’t count toward keeping an item.
- This one is important. Get rid of it–out of your surroundings, out of your house. For items like clothes still in good condition, dishes, and furniture donate them to a local charity. Many have pick-up services. For food, makeup, medicines, etc just toss it out. (There are expiration dates for a reason.) Moving it to another part of your house is simply arranging. It’s important then clutter leaves your home so that it may bless someone who needs it.
And if after you’ve decluttered each room and your house and you want to enhance the energy flow, check out how to Feng Shui your home.