The last of the Yama in Patanjali’s Eight Limbed Path of Yoga is Aparigraha or non-possessiveness. The Yamas are the moral code of conduct for yoga and offer us guidelines by which to live with regard to ourselves and the world around us, on the mat and off.
What we try to possess, possesses us.
Aparigraha invites us to fully experience life—things like intimacy—and then to let that experience go to make room for the next thing.
In a way, the essence of aparigraha is the realization and acceptance of the fact that everything changes. Nothing in life can or will remain the same forever, nor should it. Change is the very foundation of growth.
You’ve heard the quote “if you love something set it free, if it comes back it was meant to be.”
This includes non-attachment to your emotional baggage. Think about it—what are you dragging around with you every, single day that you believe you have every right to hold on to but in reality is only making your journey that much more difficult?
The change it would take to let that baggage go is hard. Who would you be without resentment, expectations, disappointments, a self-image you are clinging to, a broken heart, your neglected inner child?
A person free of attachment and able to fully experience all life has to offer, that’s who.
Expectation is the root of all heartache. –William Shakespear
Aparigraha on the mat:
Let your practice be your practice. Move through the asanas your teacher suggests with no attachment to the outcome. Don’t consider whether or not your heels reach the mat in downdog or if you can do the full bind in extended side angle today.
Leave comparison at the door. Your practice is unique to your body because you are unique. You will never be the yogi on the mat next to you so why try? Attachment to any outcome on your mat defeats the mind/body benefits the practice has to offer.
Practice for the love of practicing and without pushing yourself to your edge in expectation of an outcome and let your body unfold naturally. When you do this, the challenging poses will actually come easier and as a lovely surprise one day.
Aparigraha off the mat:
Possessiveness most often shows up in the form of possessions. Clothing, collections of things like dishes and baseball caps, excess in anything you can’t possibly use all of or every day.
But as mentioned above it also shows up in the form of mental baggage—attachment to resentment, disappointment, heartbreak, and expectations.
Building awareness around what physical things and emotional baggage you are holding on to that really do not serve you is the first step in practicing Aparigraha off the mat.
What expectations can you let go of? What baggage can you drop off? Will buying something new or clinging to negative emotions bring you lasting happiness? Will it help you find peace and live a more simpler, unfettered life? Consider this on your next shopping trip.
Let go of concern around what might happen or what you expect to happen and just enjoy what is happening. Be in the moment.
Change is the only constant you can expect in life. Flow with the change instead of trying to resist it. Aparigraha is letting go of any expectations around what you think should happen.
Let yourself experience happiness, joy and contentment but also let yourself experience sadness, anger and loss. Experiencing only positive or only negative emotions is experiencing only half of life. In order to grow and live the fullest life possible you need to fully experience all emotions and then let them go. Good or bad, this too shall pass.
Do what you love without attachment to outcomes, approval or disapproval from others or internal thoughts of “good enough.” If you love to paint, paint! Sing at the top of your lungs, dance every dance and write a book or two. Allow your passions to come alive.
Non-attachment doesn’t mean not caring. In fact, releasing attachment to things and emotions will allow you to be grateful for life and those around you. The fewer attachments you cling to, the more you are free to engage and enjoy life to the fullest.
We cannot grasp anything and be free.