Yoga is a physical practice with a strong philosophical, spiritual component that offers a deep inner peace through radical self acceptance. In this article we’ll explore the possibilities of weight loss and ultimately balance in ones life, through the expression of Aparigraha in yoga practice. Aparigraha, literally “non-grasping,” is Patanjali's fifth Yama or observance of right living, that is set out in his Eight Limbs of Ashtanga Yoga.
Aparigraha teaches both on and off the mat how to gradually let go of the many layers (physical, mental, emotional) that disrupt our authentic nature are and that clog up our ability to be true to ourselves. I’ve admitted this truth many times in conversations around my own body size and I say the following with respect and self compassion to myself and to you:
"The extra pounds or kilograms that I hold onto are simply the many hang-ups that I haven’t let go of yet."
Yoga teaches us how to let go of tension, of contraction, of pain, of illness. It does this in every single studio, by allowing us to practice in a welcoming environment and safe environment. What makes it welcoming and safe is that everyone is exploring the movement of their own body through simple asana’s (postures). Be sure that you’ve chosen a class to your specific set of needs.
Here we experience joy in the moment and during the postures we simply observe any thoughts that may percolate to the surface without judgment. How do we make this happen? It happens automatically because this is what yoga is.
The first things is to make it set your intention to observe Aparigraha (non grasping) during your hour of practice.
Exploring Aparigraha (non-grasping) ON the mat:
All yoga practice focuses on internal observances of the self, so we completely obliterate the self defacing exercise of comparing ourselves with another yogi (ie) in terms of range of motion, flexibility, grace or ease of flow. Of course you may catch yourself peaking – and when this happens you 'peak' with love and compassion before homing back into your own experience.
Aparigraha questions that I ask myself on the mat:
- Where do I feel a free flow in my own body?
- Where do I feel obstructions to movement?
- Where in this practice do I feel the most joy?
- Where do I hold tension?
- Are there differences in sensation in the right side verses the left?
- Do I notice myself changing, growing, having more compassion, love etc. today verses last week during practice?
In Yoga the asana’s (postures) are the physical practice during which time the focus becomes internal. Here you rely on your own innate feedback . After the asana practice, your own thought and intuition begins to awaken. Soon, you come to see quite clearly the agenda of others, and come to make decisions based on your best interests. Over time this has a profound effect on the balance of the mind and body.
Exploring Aparagraha (non-grasping, non-clinging) OFF the mat:
Patanjali asks us to question the importance of external things that we sometimes buy into; (ie) the shine on the tires of my neighbors new car, the amount of /or lack of money that I bring home, the sleek and sexy fashion that I must keep up with.
Aparigraha questions that I ask myself off the mat:
- Must I keep adding to (grasping, clinging) to all of these external things and more?
- Am I holding onto anything that doesn’t serve me anymore?
- Do I punish myself trying to live up to someone else’s ideals?
- What do I need for myself?
- How do I honour my own ideals?
“Radical self acceptance; Oh let shine the bounty of our own true nature.” Heather Johnston, 1962-
On and off the mat, we ask questions which clarify how we may come into balance mentally and soulfully. As we come into balance, there are some things which we feel free to let go of. This can be anything from a destructive relationship to a destructive bag of chocolate chip cookies. There are some things which simply do not fit into our lives, now.
Yoga puts us in touch with our authentic whisperings. All it takes to set one on the path is to plug into those whisperings, those self observances, and to listen to ones own genuine truth. Answers bubble to the surface as we practice with patience and self compassion.
To support you in your yogic journey, it is helpful to ponder over the wisdom of Patanjali's Yoga Sutra's. B.K.S. Inyengar seems to bring Patanjali’s spiritual teachings to life best, with grace and humour in an easy to understand format. Weight loss and many other types of balance can be achieved through self introspection and practice of yoga. Enjoy!!
Heather Johnston is a Registered Dental Hygienist and Certified Yoga Instructor. She enjoys all aspects of health, is fascinated with anatomy and evolution, with yoga and meditation and is always looking for ways to strengthen the body and mind.
Your experience is welcome. Please feel free to share in the comment section below.