Aparagraha, the yogic principle of “non-grasping”

In addition to my work as a professional organizer, I am currently taking an extended yoga teacher training.  I don’t necessarily want to be a yoga teacher, but the principles have been interesting to learn.  One in particular jumped out at me in terms of organizing, and it is the principle of non-grasping “Aparagraha” (a-pari-graha), which includes material items.

For some background: there is a collection of 10 rules and behaviors/habits for yogis to follow to grow in their practice (5 yamas and 5 niyamas) within a yogic philosophy text called the, Yoga_Sutras_of_Patanjali

It is a complex text that goes into a much broader philosophy, but I am only focusing on the 5th yama (ethical rule), Aparagraha, which is non-grasping.  If we can learn to loosen our hold on our material things, we can find a certain freedom.  The less things you have, the less you have to take care of/worry about/fix/clean/remember, leading to a lighter mental existence as well.

There is a lovely explanation of how this principle applies to material possessions in, Path to Happiness: 9 Interpretations of the Yamas + Niyamas.

“Aparigraha, is the decision to not hoard or accumulate goods through greed but rather to develop an attitude of stewardship toward the material world,” Harrigan says. “Before you bring anything into your home, ask yourself: Do I need this for my role in life? As a parent? As a spiritual seeker? Or am I just accumulating stuff out of my own fear and greed?” If you don’t consider these questions, your possessions can take over. “Once you get so much stuff, you have to take care of and defend it,” Harrigan says. “You start to get attached to it and identify with it. It’s easy to start thinking you are your stuff, but the truth is that stuff comes and goes.”

I would encourage you to ask yourself those questions when you are about to make a purchase or take home that “free” thing that your friend/family member etc. no longer uses.  It can be difficult to slow down and think about it first when the thrill of a great bargain is tempting you to partake, but it may help you to be conscious of what you are choosing to take care of/worry about/fix/clean/remember.

For those of you who are kinesthetic and want to mediate on this concept via a yoga flow, check out this 10-Minute Aparigraha Yoga Sequence.

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