Non-possession is a philosophy that holds that no one or anything possesses anything. Aparigraha is the virtue of non-possessiveness, non-grasping or non-greediness.
Aparigrah is the opposite of parigrah, and refers to keeping the desire for possessions to what is necessary or important, depending on one’s life stage and context. The precept of aparigraha is a self-restraint (temperance) from the type of greed and avarice where one’s own material gain or happiness comes by hurting, killing or destroying other human beings, life forms or nature.
Aparigraha is a compound in Sanskrit, made of “a-” and “parigraha“. The prefix “a-” means “non-“, so “aparigraha” is the opposite of “parigraha“, so aparigraha is speech and actions that oppose and negate parigraha.
Parigraha means ‘to amass’, ‘to crave’, ‘to seek’, ‘to seize’, and ‘to receive or accept’ material possessions or gifts from others. The word also includes the idea of doing good with the expectation of benefit or reward, not just for the sake of merely doing good.
Parigraha includes the results as well as the intent; in other words, it means the attitudes of craving, possessiveness, and hoarding, but also the things that have been acquired because of those attitudes.
“With constancy of aparigraha, a spiritual illumination of the how and why of motives and birth emerges”— Patanjali, Yoga Sutra 2.39
how do we apply this to our every day lives?
So with all that being said, how can we apply this yama to our everyday lives and how can we weave it into our yoga practices?
As we’ve discovered, Aparigraha is encouraging us to practice non-attachment and non-possessiveness which ultimately is reminding us to come back to our true nature.
Yoga is a practice which can take lifetimes to master because we can get so easily distracted with the ups and downs that life presents. It is natural to attach to people, places, experiences, feelings etc and there is nothing wrong with attachment! It only becomes a problem when we forget our true nature, that which is joy – ananda.
We must remember in our spiritual endeavour that we are human after all and it is completely natural to not only attach to items and people but it is also completely normal to experience pain when we lose these things. So don’t give yourself a hard time if you become upset when you lose your favourite pair of earrings or experience extreme sorrow when your beloved pet passes away. What is important is that we come back to our true nature as soon as possible. This is the practice.
Our yoga mat is a great place for us to practice Aparigraha. So how do we do it?
Have you ever found yourself getting frustrated that you can no longer do a tricky posture like the splits? Or maybe you could do a handstand in your carefree younger years but can’t do it now and judge your ability or your practice as a consequence?
Or maybe you could never do these challenging postures in the first place and rate your ability as a reflection of this?
As our body changes we are given an opportunity every day to practice this important Yama. We can get attached to working toward a particular posture or standard and if we fail to achieve that posture or standard in our mind, we can experience suffering or dukkha.
Our asana practice is a beautiful opportunity for us to remember our true nature is fullness and no yoga posture in of itself will make us feel more complete!
You are enough just as you are because you already possess all the riches of the world within you.