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. That 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.)
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:
- 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.
- 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]
- 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:
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“A Yogi measures the span of his life not by the number of years but by the number of his breaths.” – Sri Swami Sivananda
People will sometimes ask me how old I am. Honestly, I tend to forget (and it’s not from senility haha). On more than one occasion I’ve had to use a calculator to determine my age. It just isn’t something that I think about that much…
In my experience age associations tend to be more constrictive than empowering. You’re always too young or too old for something. And when someone learns your age their perspective of you shifts (I see this all the time). Age association shapes our idea of who we think we are. This can have an effect on us but only if we allow it to. Time is flexible to our perception of it.
You are not your age.
People tend to be surprised when I tell them how old I am. It’s partly because I don’t fit into the box of my age group. I try to maintain mental flexibility around aging. There’s a saying in yoga that what we focus our attention on tends to grow in size. Mindfulness meditation is a good tool for navigating potentially limiting thought patterns.
Your perception of yourself is one of the most powerful tools that you have in your belt. It helps to be aware of the ways that we talk about ourselves. Saying things like “I’m getting too old” is a sure-fire way to box yourself into self-imposed limitations. It’s the same with self-identifying with physical illnesses (example: “my arthritis”).
How we view our life experiences can also be limiting. Fixating on some aspect of the past as the being the “best time” of our lives makes us less likely to be open to new or different experiences.
Backbends reverse the aging process.
Your physiological age can be measured by the flexibility of your spine. Psychologically, backbends help us to access the “backpack” of our past which is held in the dorsal side of the body. Releasing and opening the body through back bending helps us digest our past memories. Opening the front body allows us to become more receptive to the present moment and future.
I’ll never forget a birthday present of wisdom that was given to me by a fellow yogini. We were talking about aging and I was surprised to learn that she was forty years old. Her youthful and powerful presence made her look fifteen years younger. She quietly confided that “age is all spirit.”
How old is your spirit?
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