This is the last post of the serie on the yamas of Patanjali, which are universal rules that yogis must adopt in order to evolve in their practice. I have already covered ahimsa (non-violence), satya (truthfulness), asteya (non-stealing) and brahmacarya (abstinence/moderation). This last post will cover aparigraha or the practice of non-attachment on and off the mat.
What does aparigraha mean ?
In aparigraha we find the root grah, which means grasp, grab. Grasp and not let go, this is holding on. It could be translated as not holding on or non-attachment. On a similar note, sometimes it is translated as non-pocessiveness, non-greed or non-coveting, which on many levels are all related. As usual with the yamas, we need to consider aparigraha on several levels to undestand the depth of the implications of such concept.
Asteya and aparigraha
“Not collecting treasures prevents stealing”Tao Te Ching
Non-stealing (asteya) and non-attachment (aparigraha) are close friends. If you think of it, whenever you hold on to something, this something becomes no longer available for someone else. Whether one steals, envies or wishes to possess something, it induces the idea of ownership over this thing. However, when you practice yoga, you soon come to terms with the fact that you are part of a universe that is much bigger than yourself and that you are nothing but a drop in an ocean. Once you acknowledge this, the idea of ownership becomes ridiculous. We own absolutely nothing in this world.
Aparigraha on our mat
When you practice asanas, you end up developping some physical abilities that might be quite impressive to some or just to youself. You should not get attached to theses abilities. One day you might be able to do grab your toes and the next days you won’t even be able to get past your knees. You cannot predict it and you should not get upset by it, but acknowledge it simply. By doing so you are not holing on to the performance but simply enjoying your time on the mat.
Yoga is not about performing or showing off out of vanity. Happiness will not come from the validation of others, it resides inside of yourself. One of the main feature we need to let go when practicing is our ego. The only time someone can get injured during the practice of the asanas is when the ego and the pride take over. When we let this happen, we are longer practicing yoga.
Practicing non-attachment is practicing the ability to let go. A very important part of yoga is the capacity to let go of the thoughts. We should not get attached to them and realize that we are more than our thoughts. Aparigraha is about letting go and surrendering to the flow of life knowing that we have very little control over it.
Aparigraha off the mat
Material possession should be kept to the minimum. Hoarding will never bring happiness. The more you have and the more you want. By accumulating material things you create a vicious circle built on creating a “need” for something you do not really need in order to feel joy by satisfying your desire. This joy is short-life though and soon the emptiness comes back and a new unsatisfied desire arises. This is because happiness does n Aparigraha rooted in action ot rely at all on your material possessions.
We as yogi.nis need to think of the way we consume. The way every single of our action has an impact on the enviornment. By reducing our possessions to the minimum, we limit our impact on the environment and we live ultimately more in tune with the universe. This goes as well for the way we eat. We should not overeat, so as to respect our body and in consideration for the environmental impact our alimentation.
Aparigraha rooted in action
In the Bhagavad Gita one can read : ‘Let your concern be with
action alone, and never with the fruits of action.” Instead of
thinking of the personal reward we can get through our actions, we
should only be concerned about our actions themselves. Be rooted in
the present, in the moment, in the now. This is really one of the key
principle of yoga.
Although aparigraha is often forgotten when talking about the yamas, it is a very important principle. Non-attachment is a hard concept to practice as it is very much rooted in our ego and we, as humans, find it very difficult to let go of it since we tend to associate it with who we are. It is however a big mistake. Our ego lies within our thoughts, but we are not what we think, we are what we do.