What is the principle of aparigraha?
Let’s first examine the word itself. “Graha,” means to accept and “pari” means “from all sides.” However, the prefix “a” indicates negation. Quite literally, then, this would suggest that the word aparigraha means “non-acceptance,” but let’s examine this world more closely.
To accept something typically means to claim it as your own. Accepting a gift, for example, means to receive it and take possession of it. To accept something as truth, in a more abstract context, means to hold it in finality. That said, the act or accepting or the experience of acceptance implies ownership or absoluteness.
In yoga philosophy, to identify too closely with anything causes attachment. Attachment, as we know, causes suffering. And so, this is how the age old yogis warn us against acceptance in absoluteness. Here’s an example:
You own a car, and this car is indeed luxurious and beautiful. You invest not only money in the ownership of this car, but also your identity and emotions.
This car is your assertion in the material world—your one-way ticket to a first-class life. But what happens when the car is damaged, let alone destroyed?
Naturally, there is suffering on your part. You will experience anger, distraught, and even anxiety and depression—simply because you have attached yourself to this material object.
That said, the principle of aparigraha is about veering away from attachment. Yoga International harks upon a yoga maxim that says, “All the things of the world are yours to use, but not to own.” This is the heart of aparigraha.
Does practicing aparigraha mean rejecting your emotions?
The short answer is—no. Some people may think that detaching themselves from a person, place, or even ambition entails rejecting their feelings and moving through life without disappointments. However, this is not the case!
First, rejecting your emotions means that you’ve attached yourself to them and intend to resist them at all costs. Have you ever tried to push away a thought or feeling only for it to come back? Apart from attachment, rejection and resistance cause suffering.
Practicing aparigraha simply means not identifying with your thoughts or feelings. When a negative thought arises, for example, try to observe it rather than judge it or hold onto it.
When you feel a particular emotion, try to feel it in your body as a sensation rather than push it away. You can learn more about these techniques with regular meditation.
Thoughts and emotions are important, but only to a certain extent. You can enjoy feeling love and affection for somebody, but when this love morphs into obsession or co-dependence—it has become an attachment.
It can sound quite overwhelming, but with enough meditation practice, you can slowly learn how truly practice non-attachment.
Other ways to practice aparigraha
1. Practice yoga for the joy of practicing.
When it comes to your yoga practice, having a goal can be fun and motivating. For example, you can work towards your way to a headstand or handstand! However, when you become too attached to your goals, this can bring more harm than good!
If achieving tricky poses are the ONLY reasons why you practice, then consider evaluating your relationship with yoga and movement. Excessive practice can lead to injury, or even feelings of burnout and fatigue.
Practice yoga for the simple joy of practicing. And remember to listen to your body. Enjoy the journey as it comes, and remember that all is coming.
2. Let go of material possessions you no longer need.
Start spring cleaning early and clear out your space of any possessions you no longer need. Donate clothes and other essentials to the less fortunate. Recycle disposable items and plastics that have taken up space in your bathroom counter.
It can be hard to let go of certain belongings, especially when you associate them with certain memories. The feeling of nostalgia can be quite powerful! Material objects take up energy, so consider what kind of and how much energy you actually need.
Letting go of material possessions can actually feel good and leave you feeling free and relieved.
There are other ways to practice aparigraha, but start with the two aforementioned. Moreover, try committing to a meditation practice or developing mindfulness practices for you to fully inhabit this yama.