This is part six of a series exploring the ten principles of yoga philosophy, also known as the yamas and niyamas. In this series of blog posts, we explore how we can bring this fascinating ancient wisdom into our daily lives.
Whether or not you practice yoga or not is not important. These principles are all about making this world, an even better place to live in.
Aparigraha, taking and letting go
Aparigraha is Sanskrit and can be translated as ‘non-attachment’, ‘non-greed’ or ‘non-possessiveness’.
The word ‘graha’ means to take, to grab or to seize. The second part of aparigraha, ‘pari’ means ‘on all sides’ and the prefix ‘a’ is for ‘non’/not’. Translated to modern day life: Taking only what we need and letting go of what doesn’t serves us or what doesn’t make our hearts sing.
A very broad definition that asks for more explanation as aparigraha goes beyond managing of greed.
Let’s zoom in first on letting go of the ways you accumulate ideas, knowledge, friendships or relationships.
Often I hear people giving excuses for their behavior: “That is the just the way I am.”
As often, I usually disagree with this statement.
I am not convinced that your behavior, and your actions are a result of who you really are. Instead, I believe, that you will show your preferred way of acting. As, this is the way you feel the safest in your interaction with other people.
I need some time before I open up to people.
Yes, no, maybe? Why is that?
I need to understand everything first, if it makes sense and it can be proven, I can adopt it.
Well, good luck if you’re trying to figure out the meaning of life on that one!
People tend to disappoint me quickly.
Really? How jazzed, hyped and monumental do you feel about yourself right now?
Aparigraha also means not hanging on to old beliefs, patterns, habits, relationships, people, a career or a position.
If a relationship doesn’t bring you what you would like it to bring you, then maybe, it’s time to let go? That is, letting go when the time is right.
Some people leave a serious impact on our lives and it takes time before we are actually ready to let go of them.
The letting go itself is not that hard, it’s a mind thing to decide to dwell on the past or not. But, the motivation whether or not you want to let go, goes deeper and holds the key to your letting go and more freedom.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be motivated to put some serious effort in your relationships. Neither, does it mean ‘giving up’ the minute things are a bit off.
What it does mean is when you’re dwelling in something that is not there any more, you might start to consider to let someone go.
I want what you have!
Jealousy and envy are fascinating concepts when relating them to aparigraha.
Where envy is rather a reaction to lacking something, we can see jealousy as a reaction to the threat of losing something or someone.
Different emotions but both are excellent pathways to discover our desires. And although both emotions come natural, we can choose how we react to them.
By making a conscious choice of our actions, we don’t give more room for our own insecurity, shame or greed to negatively influence us, and others.
It’s super interesting though to notice when you do get overwhelmed by a feeling of jealousy or envy. Accepting that it pops up and exploring what caused it, without any judgment about yourself, you just observe.
In a massive cloud of non-violence, you uncover and discover what made you feel envious at that particular moment.
It’s when you actually fully understand what is going on, that you can let go of these feelings.
In the Hatha Yoga Pradipikha (one of the oldest known texts about yoga), there is mention of the yama of forgiveness.
Linking this back to aparigraha, it means the ability to let experiences go from the mind and not to hold on to memories of the past.
For the benefit of yourself and others.
If you can forgive, life is easier and forgiveness can bring a certain lightness to the Heart. Instead, revenge just brings in anger.
All yamas are connected.
A trained mind will notice the difference between a need and a desire.
There is nothing wrong with satisfying a desire, as long as absolutely nobody and nothing gets hurt in the midst of it. The principle of non-violence, or ahimsa is always there.
How truthful are you when going for the desire?
Are you taking something from someone else? Is someone loosing something because of your gaining, checking in with the principle of non-stealing.
And, when are you satisfied, taking in the principle of moderation.
You get some, you give some
I love this rule where kids have to give away something, whenever they received something. Why just leave this rule to our kids? 🙂
Whenever you buy something, why not give away something that you haven’t used in 6 months?
Some people move houses and there are boxes of stuff being moved from one house to the other, without being opened…
Just keeping and hoarding stuff, just in case you need it…
Changing worlds when our kids would grasp from a very early age on that our happiness doesn’t depend on our possessions.
The more you accumulate things, the more you have to maintain. And usually, the more expensive your stuff is, the more care you probably need to take of it all.
Does this mean that we can’t save money, get some real estate in and not think about the future? No, that is not the point.
It also doesn’t mean that we should get rid of all our stuff. A new phone, a new car or new clothes can make you seriously blissed and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
What we should get rid of is our firm attachment to all of it.
Greed in your yoga class
There is nothing wrong with finding yourself on your yoga mat to experience a certain feeling. Your yoga practice might be your little private moment of Zen. Your way to relax from a busy day. “And you always feel good after class.”
When we become too attached to the result, above anything else, we might be closing the door for new experiences.
If the goal is to always feel good after class, you are not allowing for your emotions to flow. And, if your emotions can’t come up during a yoga class, when would be a good time?
“Practise and all is coming”, as said by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, can mean many different things.
When the words are interpreted as: practice long enough and you will be able to do all poses. In this case, you’re in for major disappointment and most likely injury as well.
Unfortunately, for many practitioners, yoga asana is about getting results instead of the practice itself. It’s about succeeding in a certain posture, or moving from the intermediate level to the expert level in their yoga school…
What is bypassed in full when having this vision on yoga asana, is the skeletal variations that we all have. Every single body is different. Which means that we simply can not look the same in yoga postures when in sink with what is possible and not injuring ourselves.
Some people can put both legs behind their ears in their very first yoga class, without it being dangerous at all. Others will never be able to do this, not even with 12 hours of practise per day, every day, as their hip sockets will simply not allow it.
If this twinkles your ears just a little bit, I can highly recommend researching Paul Grilley‘s work. And if you have the chance, follow a course with him to fully grasp what yoga asana is all about.
TO DO: WORRY AWAY!
If you’re serious about lifting your life to a monumental level?
In that case, I have a little assignment for you.
Having expectations, having lots of possessions and ideas on how things are supposed to be, can lead to a mind which is in a constant worry-mode. This worry mode will make it extremely difficult to let go of certain things.
Here’s the assignment!
- Set your timer for 15 minutes.
- Now start worrying. Worry the heck out of yourself! Worry about anything and everything. Horror scenarios, what if’s… Keep going until the timer goes off.
- When the timer goes off, take a blank sheet of paper and write down the things you can do about your future problems. Take a good look at the things you can do right here and now. Nobody needs longer to do lists of things they ‘should’ do one day. Instead, write down actionable things that you can do, now.
- Do your actionables and make a schedule for the all points on your list.
- Once you have you done what you can do, drop the whole thing and trust that things will work out. This might be the most important step of all. You do the work and then you trust.
I hope you liked what you read, if you have feedback or questions, please don’t hesitate contacting me.
Rachel Bonkink holds a Masters Degree in Commercial Sciences, has studied Traditional Chinese Medicine and thrives on teaching yoga and yoga philosophy classes. She has been a life coach for over 10 years and loves spending time by the beach in Morocco. She’s the owner of Revealing Vajra, a leading yoga retreat company. In the past seven years Rachel has organized, marketed and hosted over 60 of her own world wide yoga retreats. At the moment, she is writing a book on how to bring the yoga philosophy into daily life.