I'm on holiday in Portugal, currently sunning myself on a sun bed under the 35 degree heat, free from cares and my usual responsibilities. Whenever I go on holiday, I am always reminded by just how attached I am to my home comforts and my daily routine. The little things, like how I choose to spend my own time, what time I like to have dinner, what I like to buy (all the yoga leggings).
How many clothes do we have in our wardrobes that we know we won't ever wear again, but they're just sitting there just in case? I for one know that I have way too many possessions, and the fact that I'm not actually missing any of them (apart from my beloved yoga mat) shows just how meaningless they are to me. Having them doesn't equate to my happiness, it just temporarily fulfils my desire to have "things".
On holiday, I have barely anything with me. Apart from a few clothes, (ok a few too many bikinis than I actually need), one book, sun cream, flip flops and the like, I've left everything else at home. And I don't feel like I'm lacking, in fact I feel the opposite: full of abundance and very lucky.
One of the last of the five yamas of Patanajalis Eight Limbs of Yoga (yogic philosophy in English) is Aparigraha, which translates as ‘non-greed’, ‘non-possessiveness’, and ‘non-attachment’. This Yama teaches us to take only what we need, keep only what serves us in the moment, and to let go when the time is right.
Ahh, letting go when the time is right. Easier said than done right? I for one find it hard to let go of things...what if I need this eleventh pair of jeans for some important reason that I can't think of yet? Yes, letting go of things that we accumulate can be harder than we think.
What does this yama teach us and how do we translate this on and off our mats?
Being ok with less
Do we really need that eighth pair of yoga leggings? What are they going to add to our practise and lives that isn't there already? The only time I'd really need a new pair is if all my current ones have holes in them or got eaten by the dogs I look after. And realistically, this won't happen unless I forget to feed the dogs for a week. So practising being ok with what I've got is a constant challenge, a practise of Aparigraha in itself.
Savour the practise, not the destination
Ever heard the phrase, "it's the journey not the destination?" We so often focus on the outcome, the final result, the end product, that we forget completely about savouring the present moment, the little steps, the reality. Have you ever stepped on to your yoga mat, set your intention to be totally present, and then a few poses down the line you find yourself completely tuned out of the present moment and so set on getting to that peak pose, be it handstand or pincha mayurasana, that our practice has become less about being present in our bodies and breath and more about being more flexible or strong than the person next to you?
I put my hands up to this.
Practising Aparigraha can translate in watching ourselves when we fall into this ego trap, and snapping ourselves out of it, bringing our attention back to our breath and the feelings of each pose.
Practise for the love of practising
Don't forget how far you've come in this practise, or whatever you do, be it your job, a sport, something you're learning. Your practise is everything. The feelings you get in the moment, the struggles you have to face, the frustrations you have, the ups and downs, the achievements, the moments that take you by surprise. These are the things that matter and that we so often forget to savour. Not the peak pose. Not the final product. Not that promotion. Not the final ability to master the splits.
Yoga gives me the opportunity to practise non attachment in real time. Again and again. To start over when I'm swept into my ego and lose sight of my practise.
And that is what makes me and you a better yogi. Not the handstand or the splits, but the way we become more present, more comfortable with having less, and more aware of when our egos take over.