“Hint: The cage is not locked…” – Nova Knutson
In the eight-limbed path of yoga, the first two limbs, yama and niyama describe helpful ethics for cultivating yogic balance in our lives. The yama of aparigraha is often translated as non-hoarding but I like to relate to this yama as our ability to let go. While most of us would quickly assess that we are generally aligned with this yama because we are not one to stash away lots of random collections of things in our homes, it is the more subtle ways aspects of aparigraha that offer the most benefit.
There are many subtle ways that we hold on to attachments that stop us from being free. Aparigraha is one the most beneficial yamas because it liberates us from the cages we tend to create in our own minds. Often times we think of hoarding in terms of physical and tangible objects such as shoes, houses or cars. More subtle are the intangible ways we can hoard or grasp. Yoga practice can help us to see where in our own lives we are attaching to behaviors and perspectives that might be limiting our potential. By letting go of these often more subtle ways of grasping that we cannot always see we free ourselves to see our true capacity for growth and freedom.
Sometimes we can cling and grasp to asanas in our yoga practice on the mat. In my practice, this has manifested in trying to move into stages of an asana that are not yet appropriate for my body. I have pushed myself into binds that over time have contributed to small injuries in my body. Even more so, these actions dissolve any aspect of yoga that may be occurring because we cause separation in our practice. Instead of cultivating union, we are practicing the dominance of one part of our body to overpower another, ultimately causing more disconnection than union in our consciousness.
On my yoga mat, aparigraha has taught me the power of letting go by practicing acceptance of where my body and mind are each day. In my daily life, aparigraha reminds me of the futility of grasping and the freedom that arises when one relaxes into what is. It is this ability to practice aparigraha that allows us to relax in to the endless celebration of change that is life. We can free ourselves from the need to control how things are because we are no longer attached to a specific outcome. We understand that we don’t need circumstances to be a certain way for us to be happy. We can learn that happiness comes from celebrating the evolving experience we have around us rather than searching for ways to control the dance.