It is our fifth and final week of this series exploring the Yamas and learning asanas and soma yoga practices to support these principles.
Aparigraha is often translated as non-possessiveness, non-attachment or non-clinging. It is about understanding impermanence and honoring the divine flow of life. Nothing that is vital and growing stays the same. This teaching can help us to realize that what we cling to can keep us imprisoned.
Many of us cling to possessions, like cars or homes, fearing what we will become if we don’t have these things. Sometimes we cling to friendships that have come to an end, not realizing that the energy to maintain those relationships is actually stealing energy from other relationships or own vitality.
Aparigraha can also be applied to our expectations of ourselves or of other people. How often do we become prisoners of our expectations of others, rather than letting people be who they are? Can we learn to let go of those expectations, understanding that we not only free the other person, we free ourselves too?
One of my favorite parts of the practice of aparigraha is the letting go of old ideas about ourselves. Sometimes this is scary. We have told ourselves a story of our limitations and this has kept us from being vulnerable, from being truly seen. By getting truthful and current with ourselves (practicing satya), we realize there is growth and possibility that we miss by being stuck in the old story.
Letting go of beliefs and thoughts we have can be facilitated through coaching or mentoring. This is because it is sometimes hard to realize we are not stating “truth” but rather just re-playing an old pattern of thoughts. While they are not true, the may feel true, simply because we have repeated them without examining and questioning them. A good coach can gently challenge our beliefs and help us begin the process of letting go.
For the over-thinkers among us, letting go of worries and concerns may be challenging. In yoga, we settle our nervous systems in preparation for meditation, a practice of watching our thoughts without attachment. Often a mantra can help when watching the breath may not be enough. A mantra or phrase repeated again and again can keep the mind busy, so that the quiet openness does not tempt the mind to run off. And when it does (as mine inevitably does) we apply ahimsaand gently bring it back.
When it comes to letting go, what is most challenging for you? Feel free to post a comment. I am curious.
This week’s yoga class will focus on the 4th of the Yamas, Brahmacharya, or non-excess. The term literally means to “walk with God” and it is a guideline to leave greed and excess behind while we experience the world with wonder and awe. When we attend to each moment as holy, we are less inclined to feel lacking, and to over-indulge.
My experience with this concept is first as a practice with food and with consciousness around eating. For many years I struggled with this, since food was used as a coping mechanism in my family, a way to dull our feelings. We were not allowed to express anger, and I recall getting ice cream more than once when I was sad rather than just being able to cry.
I have since learned that all feelings, even difficult ones like grief or loneliness, are tolerable if we sit with them rather than resist them. Acknowledging that our feelings are valid, and having compassion for ourselves (practicingahimsa) and our basic humanity, can go a long way toward curbing any sense of “lack.”
Sometimes uncomfortable truths can emerge for us, and that can lead us to want to eat, or spend, or distract ourselves rather than to courageously act to improve our situation. This is a natural impulse, to stay with our familiar patterns rather than to move outside our comfortable habits.
Many of us can relate to an excess of busy-ness in our lives, a pull to be “always on” and always positive. And yet, acknowledging our need for rest, for pauses in our day, and for experiencing the whole spectrum of emotion is how we realize we are whole. We are never lacking. In every moment, there is abundance, if we can take the time and space to become present.
May you, my lovely readers, take time to slow down, take good care of yourself, and realize the abundance within you.
Asteya, the third of the Yamas of yoga is about living with integrity and reciprocity in our lives. It is about noticing the abundance of each moment, so we have no need to “steal” from it by obsessing about the past or worrying about the future.
In the same vein, asteya challenges us to work for what we want by building our competence. The Sanskrit word adikara refers to the right to know or the right to have. The concept is about exercising our intention and our practices in order to align those goals and desires responsibly. Our adikara helps maintain the “container” for what we receive in our lives.
When we are on a path that honors our greater sense of purpose in the world, we have no need to envy other’s accomplishments. We can feel joy on their behalf, as we acknowledge universal possibilities for success. We can feel curious about others and excited to connect and learn from them.
Practicing asteya can help us understand how to lift others up without putting ourselves down. Of course, it is always important to keep the first two yamas of ahimsa (non-violence) and satya (truthfulness) as a foundation to this practice.
At times we steal from our own energy when we feel compelled to work beyond our needs for rest, for example. We then risk working beyond healthy boundaries, and not honoring our truth in needing replenishment. This can arise from a scarcity mindset.
When we live in our own abundance, we notice just how many beautiful gifts surround us. Whether they are parks, libraries, forests, lakes or rivers, these gifts represent grace that we do not earn. We can contemplate how to live in reciprocity with this beautiful earth that we will steward for our collective future.
And on to design some practices to embody this concept. Did I mention how much I love teaching? 🙂
I really enjoyed teaching week 1 of my class last Thursday. Five wonderful students joined me and were able to help me practice my cue-ing and my teaching. I’m so grateful for that.
This week we will focus on satya or truthfulness, the second of the yamas of yoga. I have in mind some physical practices to allow students to experience their true range of motion. In soma yoga, we are taught to start with the center. So this means we start with a stable pelvis and build the poses from the central axis or spine, and then radiate outward.
Too many students (myself included) have had the unfortunate experience of getting “pushed” by a yoga class to go too far. We go beyond our true range of motion (ROM), and may find ourselves injured. Our body instinctively protects itself. Our range of motion may even decrease over time because our body knows the truth (even if our mind wants to make the image of the yoga teacher standing in front).
Life is like this too. Our bodies sense and know truth often before our minds’ start to manufacture stories and explanations. When we get quiet, and listen internally, we can detect truths emerging from within.
However, truths are not always comfortable or convenient. Sometimes a deep yearning for growth can mean that we must leave certain people behind in our lives. As humans we are biologically wired to seeking belonging, as it was part of our early survival. At the same time, our brains are wired for growth and change as adaptation is necessary.
Thus there can be some tension here, in terms of the actions we must take in our lives. We want the comfort of belonging. We also know that by not risking some discomfort, we are in danger of stagnating.
There was a time when I identified strongly as being a runner. It served me well. I got to “run out” the craziness of my mind when I felt stressed by work or life. I met my husband (9 years ago) and a wonderful community of running friends, many who are still close. I still run and enjoy the occasional race, but do not feel compelled to build up my mileage each week.
Yoga beckoned much more strongly as I sought to integrate my body and mind, rather than simply escape the busyness of my mind. Running can still feel like a cleansing process for me. And at the same time, yoga helps me direct and focus that energy in a mindful way.
So the truth is not an either/or proposition, but in this case a both/and situation. Getting current with ourselves and knowing what we need in our lives is part of satya. Tuning in regularly to ask ourselves what we most need is a practice which serves us in the long run. At times our bodies crave motion, dance, action. Other times they crave rest, pausing and turning inward.
Being able to embrace satya in each moment leads to freedom. If you feel internal resistance you might ask:
What truths am I avoiding? Is there anything I may not want to see about my situation?
And of course, applying ahimsa, some self-compassion will go a long way here in allowing those truths to emerge.
I am so excited that my friend Krista is offering this class as a post-work wind down at Tula Yoga on Tuesday nights. I’m hoping to make it to every class. I can certainly use this on an average work day, and for those in the Twin Cities, it is a great and affordable way to try out a soma yoga series.
Yes, yes. I am obsessed with “all things yoga” this month. But admit it, you’re learning a bit from that, no?
Happy Saturday, all. Get some quality relaxation time and enjoy the weather change if you love fall like I do.
And if you’re running the Twin Cities marathon: even more of a reason to sign up for some yoga!