Claiming a little more responsibility in our purchases can help bring peace of mind and also save money! Yoga's Aparigraha is in the practice of letting go and holding on to only that which serves us in the present moment.
A little while ago, I touched on the very, very tip of the massive, enormous, gigantic, un-melting iceberg that is yogic philosophy. Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga, to be precise. An eight-fold path to achieving yoga. First on this path is the ‘yamas’.
Loosely translated as our very own code of ethics and morals, the yamas refer to the attitude we hold towards things and people outside of ourselves, our code of ethics and morals, our sense of integrity and how we behave in life.
There are five yamas and, having explained the first four: ahimsa (non-violence), satya (truthfulness), asteya (non-stealing), brahmacharya (chastity), it brings us to the fifth and final yama - aparigraha.
Also known as ‘non-possessiveness’, ‘non-greed’ or ‘non-attachment’, it’s safe to say that the art of aparigraha is in the practice of letting go and holding on to only that which serves us in the present moment.
The overarching meaning behind aparigraha is to restrain from greed or avarice. This not only refers to limiting the desire for and ‘hoarding’ of physical possessions but also restraining from greed fuelled actions that may result in hurting others or doing good without expectations of rewards or benefits.
The idea behind it is that hoarding items or holding onto ideals and expectations forms an attachment.
With attachment comes fear. A fear of losing. We then live in fear unless we can create an indifference or non-attachment to these ‘things’.
The only constant thing we can expect in this life is change. When we can accept that and lose our ‘attachment’ to feelings, situations, things… we can truly say that we are practising aparigraha.
Aparigraha on the Mat
So how does this relate to our yoga?
We’ve all seen the Instagram pictures. The svelte lady in the perfect handstand on a beach at sunset.
We’ve all seen that person in class who effortlessly flows from one pose to the next like a swan gliding on a tranquil lake.
We may even aspire to be just like them and that’s ok. It’s good to have goals. The question is – what is the purpose of said goal.
Is it for your own self-development? Is it so that people will aspire to be like you just as you aspire to be Instagram Ingrid? What will happen if you don’t achieve that goal? Will you be left feeling bad about yourself? Will you quit yoga and take up fencing? Will this become a vicious circle? Yoga is about connecting with oneself and being present.
If we’re watching others in class and trying to do what they’re doing, we’re losing sight of what matters.
We’re not satisfied with our current abilities, we don’t feel like we are ‘enough’ and we’re becoming greedy.
Like I said, it’s good to have goals but are they the right goals? For you!
And, are you attached to the outcome? If you don’t achieve that goal of handstand or fluid flow… will you be mad at yourself? If you do achieve that goal, will you be happy? Will you stay happy? Will you want more? Practicing aparigraha on the mat means practicing yoga with no expectations. If you progress – great!
However, it’s not the ‘be all’ and ‘end all’. The simple practice of moving our bodies in a way that feels good can be enough. That handstand may just come naturally in time.
Aparigraha off the Mat
If we take this concept and plug it into our daily lives, it becomes apparent we can practice aparigraha regularly and feel free. Lighter. Think about those wardrobe ‘clear outs’ you have every now and then. How the fear engulfs you as you empty the contents of your closet onto the bed and realise the ‘keep’ pile far outweighs the ‘charity’ pile consisting of one old hoody your ex *cough* left behind *cough*. Do you really need all of that ‘stuff’? Are you being greedy?
As you reluctantly begin to really think about each garment and eventually find the ability to let go of some of the pieces you know in your heart you will never wear again, you might realise that the idea of an overstuffed wardrobe was virtually ‘weighing’ you down. Were you really concerned about losing an old top? If you begin to evaluate the things you own and how often you use them, it can inspire you to consider your future purchases.
"Do you really need another pair of black boots?"
Speaking of unnecessary purchases… how much food do you waste on an average week?
Do you venture ‘off the list’ when you find yourself in the confectionary aisle? Do you regularly order takeaway even though you have a fridge full of fresh food? Do you stack your plate high, eat past the point of fullness and then scrape the remainder into the bin? Claiming a little more responsibility in our food purchases can help bring peace of mind and also save money!
And speaking of ‘peace of mind’, what about all of those ‘thoughts’ we hang on to? The worries, the concerns… about things that might or might not happen. Things that may or may not change. They will change, eventually. Change is inevitable. Holding on to a fear of or a hope for change is unnecessary. It’s really just a waste of energy, no?
Like I said – change is inevitable. If we spend our time worrying about what the future holds or living in the ‘when I retire, I’m going to …’ frame of mind, we lose out on the present.
What’s right in front of us, right now. If we do somehow manage to focus on the ‘now’, we can become consumed with the fear of what will happen when this moment ends. Particularly if it is a moment of happiness. It’s completely normal but, ask yourself, are you fully enjoying the experience with complete freedom or holding on to it, trying to control it, willing it to stay as it is.
Remember that saying – ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’? That’s aparigraha!
Let go of your fears, your preconceived notions, your attachments to things, situations, ideals. Have them but don’t hold them. How can you open your hands, your heart to new experiences if you’re holding on tightly to that which no longer serves you? Be willing to open your hands, your heart, and let all that you’re holding onto slip away if it needs to. Make space.
By being present and focusing your actions on what makes you happy and not what rewards or benefits you will receive, you will find that you are living a more fulfilled life.
Instead of concerning yourself with the ‘outcome’, try to enjoy the process.
In the words of Krishna: "Let your concern be with the action alone, and never with the fruits of action. Do not let the results of your action be your motive, and do not be attached to inaction."
Not sure who Krishna is? Don’t worry – we’ll get to that!