Many of us are drawn to yoga for its physical benefits and have derived much from them. However, at its root yoga is a practice that develops flexibility, strength, and resilience of the mind and consciousness. These past few months we’ve been exploring the eight-fold path outlined in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, and the guiding philosophy they present to help us make our way through the world more at peace with ourselves and those around us.
Yoga teacher Judith Hanson Lasater states, “We often learn the eight limbs one by one, but it’s helpful to remember that each step on the path is part of an integrated whole, more hologram than linear route. Once they are learned, the limbs are to be practiced and lived together.” The first two limbs are the yamas and niyamas, restraints and observances, attitudes that we can cultivate that lead us away from suffering and toward contentment.
This month at Breathe we will be focusing on the fifth yama, aparigraha, the tenant of non-possessiveness. Aparigraha asks us to not cling to things of this world. The belief is that all things come and go and holding onto things will only lead to suffering. Like the previous yamas, aparigraha has an expansive and contemplative meaning. Aparigraha is sometimes translated as non-hoarding or non-greed, and in its simplest form it asks us to not be greedy. However it’s also interpreted as non-grasping and non-attachment. In a more profound sense, aparigraha is instructing us to let go of our attachment to everything, and be okay with it.
Practicing Aparigraha is a life-long endeavor, much like yoga itself. Step by step, we can begin by letting go of some physical stuff, purging, donating objects that would better serve someone else. Then, we can let go of our attachments to certain ideas or beliefs, allowing for the ideas and opinions of others. Maybe we let go of expectation and anticipation, greatly reducing our personal stress. Then the bigger stuff won’t seem so overwhelming. Practicing non-attachment is truly liberating. When we let go of attachments, we lay ourselves wide open to receive the abundance that is always available to us.
We invite you to join us in bringing more awareness to the practice of non-attachment this month (and beyond). Here are a few ways to get started:
—Assess your belongings and if you are still grasping onto things that you no longer use or value, then consider cleaning out and donating some items. Instead of owning our possessions, quite often they own us. If we have excess, then it is most likely better served with someone who would really value having it.
—Love your body unconditionally, without attachment. Everyday we are embodying the gradual process of change, aging. While it’s important to maintain and care for your body, and yoga practice helps with this, it’s also important to let go of attachment to physical appearance and capabilities, which ultimately will change for all of us.
—Let your thoughts flow. Mental attachments can create stress, and trying to repel them becomes a struggle. The idea of using our mind more skillfully is at the heart of yoga’s origins. The practice of meditation isn’t necessarily letting go of thoughts, but rather watching them with curiosity and from an observing perspective. If you’re feeling attached to thoughts and ideas, observe your breathe and just as easy and the breath comes and goes, allow your mind to relax and go with the flow.
—Plan, set goals, work toward those goals, but let go of the outcome. Allow your goals and ambitions to evolve organically, which will likely bring more rewards than forcing it to be what you originally imagined.
—Practice acceptance in your relationships. Let people be who there are, without trying to grasp to who you thought they once were or who you expect them to be. This may not be as easy as it sounds. People are dynamic and we sometimes cling to ideas of how we want our relationships instead of loving them for who they are in the moment and letting them naturally evolve.
Letting go of attachment can open us up to be more free and at ease as we move through our life. “The only problem we have is wanting things to be different than the way they are.” -Yogi Amrit Desai Do your best to soften and accept the things you cannot change, while moving towards your best life with non attachment and without grasping.
For continued reading on how to practice aparigraha check out this article.