Practicing Aparigraha: No Possessiveness

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The theoretical knowledge of yoga is of very little use if we do not practice the principles in our daily lives. When Patanjali wrote ‘The Yoga Sutras’, life and times were very different from what it is today. Mankind has progressed and we now live in a world where technology reigns supreme. While our lives have gotten more comfortable over the centuries, it is often hard to detach ourselves from our material worlds. 

‘Aparigraha’ is a wonderful concept in theory, but how do we practice it in our daily lives? Read on to find out what are some of the things you can do on a daily basis to help not just your body, but also your mind:

What Is ‘Aparigraha’?

Patanjali describes yoga as “the control of the patterns of consciousness”. His system of yoga consists of eight stages that are interconnected. These are:

  1. Yama (social code)
  2. Niyama (personal code)
  3. Asana (yogic posture)
  4. Pranayama (yogic breathing)
  5. Pratyahara (withdrawal of senses)
  6. Dharana (mindfulness and concentration)
  7. Dhyana (meditation)
  8. Samadhi (superconsciousness).

‘Aparigraha’ is one of the ‘yamas’ stated by Sage Patanjali. It is crucial that we practice this before we begin our pursuit of samadhi.

Let us study the 39th verse of the Yoga Sutra:

 “Aparigrahashtairye janmakathantasambodhah”.

Here, ‘aparigraha’ means non-possessiveness and ‘sthaiyre’ is steadiness. By increasing our level of non-possessiveness, we gain a deeper knowledge of the how and where of the cycle of birth, life, and what comes after. 

Aparigraha thus represents giving up the tendency to accumulate objects of utility as well as enjoyment. This enables us to free our minds and focus on only what is essential. 

Cleansing Our Physical Space

If you are familiar with the concept of ‘Minimalism’, then the principle of Aparigraha is very similar to it. Take only what you need. Be mindful of your physical possessions. 

As humans who exist in a capitalist society, it has become very common to hoard things we don’t need. 

Before you make your next purchase, ask yourself if you really need the thing in question or if it’s just something you are buying to fill some kind of void.

One of the easiest ways to start your journey is by sifting through your material items like clothing. Keep what you need and give away the rest. Donating to others in need is a great thing to do.

Cleansing Our Body

Another aspect of mental and emotional well-being is our physical body. What we consume should nourish us and not hold us back. While it is alright to sip on a glass of wine from time to time, it is not okay to be addicted to it. The same applies to everything else we eat and drink.

In terms of asanas (physical posture), some great ones to practice are:

  • Pawanmuktasana: wind-release pose.

This can be practiced by all and is a great way to naturally cleanse one’s stomach.

  • Sarvangasana (shoulder stand)

This is another great pose but should not be practiced by those with contraindications such as irregular blood pressure and spine or back injuries. You should also avoid this during pregnancy or on the days you are menstruating.

  • You can also practice poses such as Marjarisana (cat-cow), Setu Bandhasana (bridge), and Dhanurasana (bow) to relieve knots in your spine and back. However, do be careful of the contraindications and remember to practice the counterpose to every asana that you practice.
  • According to the Hatha Yoga Pradikipa, there are six cleansing practices called the ‘Shat Kriya’, which include Neti, Dhauti, Nauli, Vasti, Trataka, and Kapalbhati. Although these must all be practiced under the careful guidance of your teacher, they are great for getting rid of toxins from your body.
  • ‘Kapalbhati’ has been mentioned as a Shat Kriya, but it is also a form of Pranayama (breathing technique) and is a relatively safer practice. The benefits include cleansing of the digestive system, a cure for insomnia, and greater production of endorphins. Practice Kapalbhati after you have finished your asanas during the day. This will improve your overall mood and keep you going throughout your day. 

Cleansing The Mind

When you are deep in meditation, you are able to let go of all the things that hold you back. Practicing mindfulness on a regular basis is also part of practicing Aparigraha. It is by immersing yourself completely, you will be able to keep thoughts of people and things away and focus on your innermost self.

One of the simplest ways to get your mind to focus when you start your meditation is by taking a deep breath and chanting ‘Om’. This will enable you to center yourself and get rid of any negative emotions that you may be experiencing.

Practical Ways Of Aparigraha

  • Declutter and downsize your material possessions.
  • Practice gratitude. Be thankful for all that you have and the people who surround you, give you love.
  • Learn to share. This also applies to the skills and knowledge you have acquired over the years. 
  • Practice forgiveness. Although this is often easier said and done, letting go is key to non-possessiveness. If you let go of the anger and pain from your past, you will find that you are truly free to be who you really are.
  • Be open when it comes to asking for help. Sometimes we let our inhibitions and shame take over. We are unable to seek help even when we need it. By allowing ourselves to be vulnerable, we open ourselves up for a scope for betterment. 

The reason why Aparigraha is so important is that it keeps our minds unoccupied by inane thoughts. When there are no material possessions, we have very little to worry about. 

We must practice Aparigraha when we are in the beginning stages of our yogic journey. We do this to break old habits and start afresh. Without clutter and excess, we can focus on serving others around us. However, we must not allow our frugality to become excessive and obsessive. Just like anything else, it is important to find a perfect balance. 

Suyasha Sengupta

References :

[0]Svatmarama, Y. (2007). Hatha Yoga Pradipika. (P, Sinh, Trans.). Good Press.

[1]Svatmarama, Y. (2007). Hatha Yoga Pradipika. (P, Sinh, Trans.). Good Press.

[2]Saraswati, S.S. (1976). Four Chapters On Freedom. Yoga Publications Trust, Munger, Bihar, India.

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