Yamas ~ Yoga guidelines to live by ~ Aparigraha

July 24, 2015
Tanja Alexandra Kern

“By the observance of aparigraha, the yogi makes his life as simple as possible and trains his mind not to feel the loss or the lack of anything. Then everything he really needs will come to him by itself at the proper time.”  –B.K.S. Iyengar

Today we have arrived at the fifth and final Yama ~

Aparigraha (Sanskrit: अपरिग्रहा)

Sutra 2.39 “Aparigraha sthairye janma kathamta sambodhah”

This yoga sutra translates as: “When the yogi is established in non-possessiveness, knowledge of the how and why of existence arrives.” (Gary Kissiah, 2011)

“Aparigraha literally means “non-hoarding”. It means don’t take more than you need – in any area in your life. Mahatma Gandhiji said it beautifully: “There is more than enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for any man’s greed.” It means, live simply. Use only that which you require. Purchase only that which is essential. The more we try to accumulate, the more we acquire, the more we get bogged down and the more difficulties we face. So, travel light in life and you will find that you progress quickly and easily.” ~ H.H. Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatji

Aparigraha encourages us to free ourselves from any unneeded material, emotional, and intellectual possessiveness.

The practice of yoga helps us to master our mind and emotions, supporting us to refrain from comparing ourselves to others. The act of judging or comparison only leads to feelings of inferiority and jealousy. When we remind ourselves of all that we have and celebrate the other with honest happiness for what they have, we realize that we are all special and are destined to bring our unique gifts into the world.

“The yogi feels that the collection or hoarding of things implies a lack of faith in God or himself to provide for his future.”
~ Light on Yoga, BKS Iyengar, page 35.

For most of us the conduct of aparigraha is a continual practice. As we strive to be free from greed and the desire to possess more than we need, our actions don’t always express our aparigraha intention. Honestly, I love to shop and yes, I don’t NEED another pair of shoes, a new piece of jewelry, clothing or yoga accessory, but I would LOVE to have it! The act of purchasing or receiving something that we are passionate about is truly enjoyable! What makes a difference for me, is that when I bring something new in, I feel a deep gratitude for the new item and for who or where it came from. At the same time I am aware that these are ‘only’ material things. The joy and excitement over the new possession may fade or even if it lingers, the new treasure may break, or may be lost. It is also a great reminder about the impermanence in life. Everything changes and when we leave our physical bodies we can’t take anything with us. What we will remember (at any time in our lives or at the end of our lives) will certainly not be the new shirt that we bought but more likely the wonderful time we have been sharing with our loved ones, acts of service and living our life purpose. These are the most important things in life! Of course it won’t hurt to wear that new dress when you go out with your loved one this weekend, will it? 🙂 I believe the important thing is to appreciate what we have, not take anything for granted, not to act out of greed, possessiveness, envy or jealously, and to fully enjoy the experience, if possible without attachment or expectation. When we can let go of neediness, we can receive peace and contentment.

“One who is not greedy is secure. He has time to think deeply.
His understanding of himself is complete.”
~ Yoga Sutra II.39

We can also practice aparigraha by asking ourselves what we can let go of. It is a freeing experience to give away things that no longer serve us. It makes others happy and at the same time opens up space for new opportunities to come to you. The act of letting go and trusting that our needs will be met with what we need can be scary, yet so much can be learned from it. There was a time in my life where I left many of my possessions behind or gave them away, only taking the most personal and treasured belongings with me. I realized that even with everything that I could purchase I could not buy happiness. I am not suggesting for you to let go of all your possessions. I would only invite you to consider if you can let go of a piece of old clothing that no longer represents you, restricting thoughts, unwanted habits, or maybe even a negative relationship? Releasing what is no longer needed, opens you up for new ideas, opportunities and relationships to come your way. How would it feel to bring more space and balance to your mind, body, spirit, emotions, home, your life? What would you create with the new space?

“The more we have, the more we need to take care of it. The time and energy spent on acquiring more things, protecting them and worrying about them cannot be spent on the most basic questions of life. What is the limit to what we should possess? For what purpose, for whom and for how long? Death comes before we have had time to even begin considering these questions.”
                                                                ~ Translation and commentary by TKV Desikachar

With aparigraha as our final yama, we conclude our exploration of the first limb of yoga.

In the coming weeks we will delve into the second limb of yoga, the Niyamas. So please stay tuned for the Niyama guidelines, reflecting the relationship towards ourselves and offering suggestions for becoming the best version of ourselves.

If you have any questions or would like to leave a comment – I would love to hear from you. website, Facebook page, or email.


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