Aparigraha: Let It Go and Have it All

Posted by on March 4, 2013 in Consciousness, Eight Limbs of Yoga, Self Improvement, Yoga | 11 comments

Simple reflections

Simple reflections

“By the observance of aparigraha, the yogi makes his life as simple as possible and trains his mind not to feel the loss or the lack of anything. Then everything he really needs will come to him by itself at the proper time.”  –B.K.S. Iyengar

Now we come to the final yama, aparigraha, non-hoarding or non-collecting.  Like asteya, non-stealing, aparigraha begins with the trust that we will get our needs met. From that trust is born the confidence to let go of what no longer serves us, knowing that if we need it again later, it will come back to us.  The practice of aparigraha can be as simple as breath awareness. When we exhale completely, allowing ourselves to be empty for a moment, we are affirming our trust that on the other side of the breath, there is a whole ocean of air just waiting to rush into our lungs and fill us with life force. When we inhale completely, we are proclaiming our worthiness to be fully alive, to experience that aliveness, to savor it for a moment and–when it is time–to let it go. We do this over and over again in our yoga practice–retaining exquisite awareness of our life-giving breath, and we feel fulfilled, complete on the very cellular level. The tense places in the body begin to loosen as we move and breathe mindfully, and we directly experience what it means to let go of what is no longer useful so that we have the space to welcome something else–something fresh, and lovely, and wonderful.

This week in our asana practice I asked students to go within and identify something that they could let go of in their lives to make room for a new experience. It could be old clothes occupying space in our closets, thoughts cluttering our minds, relationships that have outlived their meaningfulness, moldy cheese in the fridge–anything that could be released to make some precious space to experience our own creative potential. If nothing came to mind, I asked them to devote their practice to discovering what they can let go of. In my experience, there is always something to be released, even if it’s just this one breath. We took a moment at the beginning of class to set an intention for our practice, to breathe into that intention and energize it with our focused attention. Then we began to move.

I invited students to start with the exhalation, to allow themselves to be empty, and to remember over and over again that this letting go is what makes space for the next moment, the next experience–the realization of our authentic self beyond the world of form.

When we let go of something that we are holding on to, be it a decades old t-shirt or a self-limiting belief, we are able to reclaim our creative power. It is in the silence that inner music can be detected, it is on the blank canvas that the new painting can appear, it is in the absence of habitual thought that inspiration can manifest.

But space can be scary, really scary. When confronted with all of our power, we might feel the impulse to run away screaming. I know that I have collected clothes, music, books, people, and experiences as an antidote to simply being with myself. When I take a good look at all of this stuff I have accumulated, it feels insanely overwhelming. I’d rather cover my head with a pillow and fall into a several day hibernation instead of take a good look at why I’ve been holding on to that t-shirt my former boyfriend gave me nearly a decade ago.

This is where our practice comes in. We practice for courage. We breathe. We attempt the pose that has been intimidating us, and maybe we falter, but we know we can try again when we’re ready. And so we develop strength, and tenacity, and we hold our vision and send energy toward it, moving into more expansive, healthier, happier, balanced selves with each aware breath.

I admit it. I have plenty of clutter in my closet, in my basement, and in my brain. I really want to let go of it all, but it’s really hard for me. Studying aparigraha this time around has given me a big dose of humility and the drive to be even more awake regarding the objects, thoughts, people, and experiences I choose to bring into my life today. Because goodness knows that the things I bring in have a tendency to stay awhile.

Do you know what’s profoundly reassuring in all of this? Like the other yamas, aparigraha isn’t something that we grasp on the mental level one moment, and then put down in the next. We don’t have to flick a switch and miraculously morph into a paragon of simple, uncluttered living. It’s something that we can keep practicing until one day it becomes second nature. Maybe today we let go of that chunk of moldy cheese that has been lurking in our fridge, and maybe tomorrow we take one old t-shirt to Goodwill. Maybe a month from now we have the courage to examine a self-deprecating thought that has been running around in our brains for the better part of our lives. Maybe we have a friend who has repeatedly hurt us with careless remarks, inconsistent behaviors, destructive choices–and one day we have the courage to say “No more!” We can move at a pace that feels comfortable, and whittle away at the mountain of clutter, until one day we notice we are free.

So keep practicing, my friends. Keep breathing, beginning with a big exhalation that says, “I am willing to let go!”  Waiting for you on the other side is a whole ocean of life force ready to rush into you as you allow yourself to receive. May your breaths be full, and deep, and joyful–a celebration of the life you have right now.

This concludes our exploration of the first limb of yoga (at least for now!). Coming up next are the niyamas, the second limb. Please stay tuned in the coming weeks as we explore the five observances we employ to relate to life inside and out in healthy and balanced ways. I invite you to leave any questions or comments in the space below–I’d love to hear from you!

What can you let go of in your life to make more room for your own creative potential? Who would you be with more space in your home, your body, your mind, your life? What would you create in that space?

11 Comments

  1. Hey Lorien,
    I’ve really been enjoying your classes these past two weeks and especially loved how you explained aparigraha and worked it into our yoga practice. Beginning with the exhale and trusting that there will be something to fill the empty space is such a powerful metaphor for just having faith in life in general. I’ve been thinking about that all week- why am I holding on to this or that, what am I afraid might happen if I let it go….

    I came across this quote recently by Picasso: “Art is the elimination of the unnecessary.” It instantly reminded me of aparigraha- no matter what our art, or trade, or journey is, we’ve got to shed all the clutter around it in order for it to be pure and beautiful and perfect….

    Anyway for the great class! Back to cleaning the closets!!

    • Wow Maddie,

      Thanks so much for taking your time to stop by and share an awesome quote too! I’m glad that you’ve been able to take your yoga practice out into your life and apply the principle of aparigraha to something tangible. Good for you to have the courage to sift through what is unnecessary so that you can reveal what is vibrant and nourishing. It’s wonderful having you in class and I look forward to seeing you soon.

  2. Hi Lorien! I’m currently in teacher training and each class we pick a yama or niyama out of a hat and study and apply that to our lives. I currently have aparigraha, which I knew I would pick because it’s the one I most need to work on. I have the most trouble letting go, but know that’s what I must do to receive greater things in my life. This article has been truly helpful for me, thank you! I love the way you’ve applied aparigraha to your class and I have been trying to do this in my daily practice (and life). Thank you for this! Namaste.

    • Hi Nicole, thanks for stopping by! How is your teacher training going? i’m glad that my article was helpful for you–it gives deeper meaning to my work when I know there’s someone on the other end who might benefit! I too have great challenge with letting go, and this is why I’m so glad we have this yoga practice to help us make sense of our habitual patterns of thought and behavior. There is some hope that over time letting go will be easier. Namaste to you, and thanks again for your comment.

  3. I’m so thankful with your words. This page come to change my life. I don’t know how to start this comment.. because i was desesperate to have an answer from the universe or any media. I opened this page because i want to know what shaucha means and i found this page and i get in love of your words. I will apply shaucha in my life and i want to change my world, i want to clean outside and inside of me. I need to know who i am, what i want, where i go, what can i do for me, for my kids for my family for my community but i know i have to start with me. I want to take yoga classes but i didn’t know where to go. Theee are outside a lot of yoga classes but i was lookong for one to help me in my inner and not just in my physical.

    Thanks again for all your articles.

    • Hi Alicia, thank you so much for your beautiful comment. I can sense the caring and the earnestness in your words, that you want to know yourself inside and out. I’ll send you an email shortly. I apologize for the delay in response! For some reason I’m not receiving notifications of comments. I’ll fix that!

  4. Hi, Lorien,

    I came upon this post because my “word” for 2016 is Aparigraha, I searched for some reflections and comments about it and yours was the first I came across. It is beautiful! I found it to be very meaningful and helpful for me, and a good way to start reflecting its application in my life. Thanks again; happy new year.

    • Hello friend!

      Thanks so much for your kind comment, and I’m glad that you were able to find some inspiration in my words. And what a whopping good word for you to choose for 2016!!! My word is “compassion.” I’m happy to find another fellow wayfarer who has chosen a special word for this year. I will very much love hearing back from you to find out how the journey goes for you as you walk the path of aparigraha. Best wishes to you!!

      • Hey Lorien,

        Thanks for your reply. I’ll keep you posted on my progress! I’m following your blog and look forward to reading about your journey too. I’m glad to have found a kindred spirit on life’s journey. I wish you peace, love, happiness, and of course, abundant compassion in 2016! 🙂

        • Wonderful! I’m looking forward to sharing in each other’s journeys along the way. A kindred spirit is a true blessing. Thank you for being here. <3 🙂

  5. Hey there friend! Thanks for stopping by and for mentioning me in your post, how kind of you. So, how did it all turn out with the waiting and waiting and waiting to hear from Stanford? I’m glad you were able to practice some aparigraha in your daily life–it’s one of the hardest concepts to embody and live authentically.

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