Aparigraha

Aparigraha, which is the last of the five yamas of Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga, translates to ‘non-greed’, ‘non-possessiveness’ and ‘non-attachment’. ‘Graha’ means to take, seize or grab, ‘pari’ means ‘on all sides’ and ‘a’ is a prefix which negates the word itself – basically meaning ‘non’. This yama essentially teaches three very important things: (1) take only what we need, (2) keep only what serves us in the present and (3) let go when the time is right.

In today’s competitive and fast-paced world, we tend to get caught up in the obsession of getting somewhere. Everything we do is a calculated move in view of a desired outcome, and we are often plagued by the constant worry about what might come of the effort we put into a particular thing we do. It is exactly this that is at the heart of Aparigraha, and is also one of the central teachings of the Bhagavad Gita, in which Krishna teaches us: “Let your concern be with action alone, and never with the fruits of action. Do not let the results of action be your motive, and do not be attached to inaction”.

Translating this lesson to our physical practice, many of us walk into class with the intention of perhaps improving our personal practice, or even just clearing our heads for a more peaceful mind. However, often halfway through, we lose sight of the intention we had set for ourselves, and may end up comparing ourselves to other people, and sometimes pushing ourselves into an asana we may not be ready for. This is where the ‘non-greed’ and ‘non-attachment’ come into play. Our minds are so often distracted with thoughts of improvement or being the best that we end up constantly dissatisfied with the present.

Even off the mat and in our daily lives, we face this same problem. We buy things that we don’t need, we eat more after we’ve started to feel full, and to be a little more abstract, we sometimes confuse love with possession or attachment. Each time we enter a new relationship, it is almost inevitable to start fretting over what will come of the relationship or in what direction it is heading. We become attached to positive feelings that come out of the relationship – which is completely human – but more often than not, this happiness leads us to think, “what happens when this moment is over?”

This constant worry disallows us from truly being present. Instead of trying to cling on to these positive feelings and hoping they never leave, embrace the very moment with full understanding that change is the only constant in life. This is ‘Parinamavada’ in Sanskrit, which means that everything is in a constant state of flux. Once we have accepted that it is only with the experience of negative emotions that we can truly experience positive emotions, we will start to realize that Aparigraha actually offers us so much freedom – the freedom to do whatever we wish without worry, the freedom of knowing that this too shall pass, and the freedom to be truly present in each moment.

 

TYX (200hour Hatha/Ashtanga Weekdays)