Aparigraha the fifth and final yama refers to non-craving and non-clinging. This can be directly applied to our yoga practice.
One of the most challenging and most rewarding aspects of practicing yoga in a studio setting is the community of like minded yogis and yoginis we practice with. It’s rewarding to know that in our crazy lives we can escape the “rat race” and competition that often comes with the work place to unroll our mats, breathe and move with a group of people all looking for the same thing we are, steadiness, ease, and health.
The flip side to this is that sometimes our denizen of peace mimics the rat race and the competition, and we unwillingly, controlled by our ego and monkey mind begin to crave our neighbors perfectly aligned, graceful revolved triangle. (Yikes! When I even think of that pose my IT band starts screaming at me!!) Or, we yearn for the flawless handstand to jump back to plank.
Believe me I get it!! As a practicing yogini for ten plus years, and a yoga teacher, I have often felt the pull of my ego when kicking up to handstand and falling right out of it, again, and again, and again. I wake up every day and my hamstrings are rubber bands, so freaking tight, everyday.
Aparigraha is an invitation to let go of our ego driven craving. When we allow ourselves the space for acceptance, compassion and gratitude on the mat, the practice facilitates a much deeper unfolding than any arm balance will provide.
We begin to practice this on the mat. We honor our bodies and where we are at. We do the work every day, and celebrate the new growth, flexibility and stability that comes with an asana practice. Then something shifts, we still notice the perfect alignment of our neighbors, the handstand kick-ups in the middle of the room, the seated forward folds that take our breath away; but instead of lusting after these people’s practice, we can be genuinely happy and excited, not just for them and the progress they have made to get there, but for ourselves, knowing that through the discipline of practice maybe some day, we may get there too. BUT, (and this is a big but J) we are not attached to the idea that if we do not ever “get” these poses, we will be less of a yogi/yogini.
Like all yoga, what we practice on the mat, mirrors our lives. We learn to be where we are at, honoring our journey for the miracle that it is then this peace and acceptance ripples into our lives. We begin to notice that our former insecurities and petty jealousies cease to exist. We genuinely celebrate our path and journey, allowing us to genuinely celebrate the people around us.
As for me, my handstand is improving and I am working on it. My hamstrings are still tight as hell every single day when I wake up. That may never change, and I’m ok with it. What has changed is my relationship to my body. I used to curse my hamstrings, curse the intensity of my first forward fold of the day. Now, I welcome it, the physical sensation is like an old friend, it greets me when I step onto my mat and says “good morning friend.” I know that stress and tension in my body is simply information to me from me. This makes me curious about my practice, where will it take me today? What can I learn, what new space can I discover in myself? I take a deep breath in, exhale fold forward, inhale halfway, exhale fold and with the help of aparigraha, lean into the unknown.
with love, k