Yoga Philosophy: Aparigraha

Aparigraha is such a simple yama (moral attitude) to understand, but I find it's one of the most challenging. In simple terms, according to the yoga sutras, practicing aparigraha (the state of being unattached) will lead to a clear mind. More specifically, it's cultivating that feeling of unattachment to material things, people, ideas, thoughts and actions. Simple, right? But put into action, it becomes apparent how attached we are to... everything. Our car, our clothes, our job, our significant other- the list goes on and on.

Holding onto these things in our life cultivates our sense of identity and therefore, our ego. Anything we label as "mine" can be taken away from us, and ultimately the value we place on these things doesn't serve us.

Take a new car, for instance. You buy a new car, and instantly you're worried about someone scratching it. The new car itself represents a large amount of money and instead of being a way to get you from A to B it becomes a status symbol, a representation of yourself, and fuels your ego. Practicing aparigraha in this instance would mean separating the association of the car and yourself- becoming unattached to the car. 

Apart from separating ourselves from attachment to material possessions, we can practice aparigraha by cultivating generosity without expecation of anything in return. When you do something nice for someone, it's vital to let go of any expectations for what you'll ultimately receive, and recognize that the act of doing something kind is the gift.

It's a lot to think about. Don't feel overwhelmed, we're only human. Here are a few questions to ask yourself that may help.

1. What do we need? 

Aparigraha is not about letting go of all material possessions. That would be too passive and wouldn't serve you in any way. It's about finding a balance between too much and too little. It's about surrounding yourself with what you need, letting that amount be enough, and not getting attached to those things. 

2. What should we focus on? 

According to the yoga sutras, we should focus on cultivating a sense of generosity. We should act with compassion and with love. When we give fully of ourselves from this place of love, we let go of our ego, of the stress, fear and worry that attachment brings. This is when we become more in tune with our inner selves.

Read more about aparigraha and other yamas in The Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali: