Aparigraha: Yoga’s Answer to Streamlining the New Year

With the holidays behind us and a new year ahead, this seemed like a perfect time to discuss the yogic practice of Aparigraha.

For me, New Year’s is less about making resolutions and more about getting organized. As a minimalist (who loves to shop) Aparigraha comes in very handy with decision-making. I use it when deciding what to keep and what to let go of. It also helps me determine what I want to bring in to my life.

The yamas and niyamas (morals and observances) are the first two branches of Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga. These primary steps offer a self-disciplinary code of conduct that aids in balanced spiritual development.

Aparigraha is the fifth yama. It’s translated as non-possessiveness, or the absence of greed. The objective is to free your mind from covetous thoughts. One way to accomplish this is through the minimalist lifestyle.

According to the Yoga Sutras, when the mind is purified of greed you obtain the siddhi (paranormal power) of remembering all of your past lives. This is if you believe in reincarnation.

Aparigraha teaches us to take only what we need. It’s kind of like doing an inventory of our lives. It raises the questions of what do we cling to and what is weighing us down? And not just material things (although that’s certainly part of it). We may hold on to:

  • Our identity, or who we think we are
  • People (partners, friends, enemies, children, etc.)
  • Dogmas/Beliefs

Aparigraha is an invitation to release that which does not serve you. Those boxes of papers that you haven’t touched in five years. Clothes that you haven’t worn in over a year. Unbalanced relationships. Former teachings that are no longer relevant.

One word of advice – take your time with this process. It can be difficult to begin and easy to get carried away. Start by asking what can I change? Baby steps are huge with this kind of work. Notice where the sticky spots are. You could also try any of these exercises:

  1. Eliminate Food Waste: In my home we have a weekly menu, where we keep track of what food is in the fridge, which meals are on deck, and when the expiration dates are.
  2. Create a Capsule Wardrobe: Reduce clutter by donating or selling any clothes that you don’t wear. The clothes that you wear regularly form the basis of your capsule wardrobe. [Read: 7 Tips to Help You Create Your Capsule Wardrobe]
  3. Reset to Zero: This is a lovely way to describe what happens to our minds when our home environment is put into order. It’s like hitting a reset button on your mental state – especially helpful before beginning any new projects. [Read: Reset to Zero]

These are just a few ways that you can streamline the start of your New Year. If you enjoyed this article, you might also like:

Asteya: Yoga’s Answer to Hungry Ghost Syndrome

Yogis Can Eat Meat (if They Want to)

How to Plan a Winter Solstice Personal Yoga Retreat

Winter Solstice

 

“Winter Solstice”

No more hurry

hurry,

time now for firelight

and dreaming,

for church bells

mingling

with the cold, quiet sunlight.

And somewhere

deep

inside of you

a kernel of courage

unfurling –

each day, more light.

– Irene Latham


“If you want to make God laugh, make a plan.” 

A friend once shared this tidbit of wisdom with me, and it still rings true whenever my plans fall apart. I had every intention of focusing on my practice for the month of December but my immune system has been on the ropes from three consecutive colds.

Thankfully I’ve had a chance to regroup, just in time for the Winter Solstice. In some ways it’s better to start a Personal Yoga retreat now because I’ll have fewer distractions over the holidays.

Of course, the ultimate goal is to merge working life seamlessly with your practice. But according to the great Sage Patanjali, the first of 13 Obstacles on the Yogic Path is sickness. There isn’t much we can do until we’re feeling better. So incubation is key, which falls in line with the power and presence of the Winter Solstice.

Winter Solstice Retreat

I like to begin a Personal Yoga retreat with a few simple preparations. These are especially beneficial if you haven’t been feeling well or have low energy from holiday season burnout. I recommend starting with Saucha, the second Niyama (observance) of Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga.

The Niyamas are foundational practices that relate to our internal world. Saucha means purity or cleanliness of our internal and external worlds. When we engage in Saucha on an external level (such as our bodies), we are also affecting the internal (mind and spirit) parts of our beings.

If my house isn’t clean I have a hard time focusing on anything. So I like to practice Saucha with a thorough and intentional cleaning of my home environment. A few of my Saucha materials include:

  • White Vinegar Spray: Great for counter-tops, bathrooms and floors (dilute 50/50 with water).
  • Baking Soda: Mix with vinegar spray to create a paste for sinks or tubs.
  • Essential Oils: Lavender and Tea Tree are powerful antiseptics. Add a few drops to a sponge or mix with grain alcohol for a DIY air freshener. (For more information, read Freshen Indoor Air Naturally )

I love the way burning candles and diffusing essential oils can lift the feeling of a space. [Fun fact: I recently learned that burning dried sage can reduce airborne bacteria.] Another nice touch is a vase of fresh flowers in clean water.

I like to conclude a meditative house cleaning with a hot shower and a fresh set of clean clothes. These simple steps clear my mind so that I can drop more easily into my practice and refill my “cup.”

I hope these tips spark your imagination with creating your own Winter Solstice Retreat.

If you enjoyed this article you might also like:

Winter Solstice and the Guru Bead

6 Immunity Boosting Tips