My classes this month have contained opportunities to explore opening and closing and what I have been describing as ‘unfurling’ – a journey from flexion to extension. For me, unfurling implies an opening that somehow seems to come from inside us. This is the way I understand aparigraha.
Aparigraha is the fifth of the yama, usually translated as ‘not grasping’. It has something to do with possessions – and not having too many of them. It seems also to relate to asteya (not stealing) and being careful with resources. There is a link to saṃtoṣa (contentment) and being satisfied with what we have, rather than reaching or grasping or striving for more.
So what differentiates aparigraha? Well, first let me say that I cannot tell you ‘The Truth’ about yoga, only what makes sense to me (‘my truth’). So, disclaimer made, I would like to suggest that aparigraha – for me – is more like a fruit or a flower that opens up inside, and does not require the effort or discipline of the other four yama.
As I become more established in my own practice and my own truth, I am less bothered about trying to become someone or something else (ahiṃsā, satya). To protect my practice and my integrity, I establish boundaries around my time, energy and resources (asteya, brahmacarya). Rather than reaching or grasping for something outside of myself, I then feel more like I am flowering, from a deeply rooted place within.
A tree that stands tall has an equal or even greater amount of roots that are hidden below ground. These hidden roots are vital for the plant’s nourishment and ability to continue growing upwards and outwards. I recently found out that the hidden roots of apparently quite separate trees are, in many cases actually connected underground. They form what has become known as a wood wide web – and their symbiotic relationships strengthen the forest as a whole.
I like to imagine that throughout this strange time of enforced ‘retreat’, separately in our own homes, we have been like the trees, connecting through the hidden roots of our yoga practice. I hope as we begin to re-emerge that these connections can be maintained, and that our permission to stop (if only for just 20 minutes each day) can be remembered and protected.