The next limb we'll explore, is the fifth and final tenet of the Yamas... Aprigraha.
Aprigraha is often understood as non-grasping or non-attachment and can also refer to taking only what is necessary in a given situation, as to not take advantage of others. When considering this limb, you might also reflect upon cultivating non-attachment to actions — such as practicing yoga for practice sake. Thus adopting the motto: practice makes practice, not perfect.
In the Bagavad Gita, a foundational yoga text for self-study and practice, Krishna says "Let your concern be with the action alone, and never with the fruits of the action. Do not let the results of your action be your motive, and do not be attached to inaction."
This can be particularly helpful in your yoga practice, as the practice of yoga is not really about "achieving" something, but rather about cultivating the discipline (tapas), inner container, and conditions for the greater unfolding of your being to happen.
In his book, The Heart of Yoga, T.K.V. Desikachar, writes, "Yama and niyama deal with our social attitude and lifestyle, how we interact with other people and the environment, and how we deal with our problems. These all [such as aparigraha] form yoga, but they cannot be practiced. What we can practice are asanas and pranayama, which make us aware of where we are, where we stand, and how we look at things. Then gradually we try to bring about some changes. ... No one can change in a day, but yoga practices help change attitudes."
So what might aparigraha look like in daily life, both on and off the mat? There are several ways to approach aparigraha. Here are some ways to notice "where you are" with aparigraha.
1. Letting go of 'stuff': How concerned are you with physical possessions? Learning to let go of possessions that do not serve a purpose can be a freeing experience, creating space both in your home and perhaps in the energetic space of your mind and body. In this moment when you consider this possibility of letting go, what do you feel in your body? Clenching? Grasping? Or the possibility of freedom?
One suggestion might be to let go of at least one thing when you buy something new, whether it be an object for the home or a new piece of clothing.
2. Food: Take in only what's needed and eat in a balanced and nourishing way. In the yogic tradition, this is often referred to as eating a sattvic diet. This doesn't mean that you forego everything you love... even I firmly believe that yoga and chocolate is one of the best combinations out there! However, it does request that you be mindful when eating and to consider when you've taken in enough nourishment at each meal and to consider if the food you are ingesting is nutritious and fulfilling or simply empty calories. Consider that not all calories are alike.
3. On the Mat: When on the mat, stuff inevitably comes up and it can be useful to approach your practice through the lens of loving kindness and self-care. When you feel an insecurity or a judgment come up, try acknowledging the thoughts or feelings and then let them go, remind yourself why you showed up on the mat and congratulate yourself for being willing to be present and mindful with your breath and body. Be willing to acknowledge the thoughts that do not serve and replace them with positive affirmations, then let go of where your practice might take you today and see what happens.
4. Consider Forgiving an old hurt: Consider releasing the baggage of resentment and forgive an old hurt. This may sound easier than it actually is, but it can lead to profound healing and eventually support greater detachment from the old stories about the past that have been weighing you down. For more on Forgiveness, you can view my December newsletter where I list out the steps of forgiveness as I was taught them. Click here to read more about forgiveness.
Try taking one area of your life at a time — practice in moderation and as much as you can, be kind and patient with yourself as you cultivate aparigraha. After all, nothing changes overnight.
As you cultivate aparigraha — non-attachment and letting go — you may find a greater freedom that in turn provides you with more spaciousness of heart, being, and understanding.