When we were first instructed to select a yama or niyama to cultivate throughout our first experiment, I found myself immediately drawn to the yama aparigraha. Aparigraha is often translated as “non-possessiveness, or refraining from hoarding,” and it involves a letting of greed, attachment, wanting, and the desire to own. For me, this idea of non-possessiveness immediately conjured up images of the popular television show “Hoarders,” where the individuals featured found themselves literally drowning within clutter; their grasp around the material possessions overpowered their life to the point of paralyzation, and their inability to release said clutter lead them to alienation from family and friends. Material possessions can quickly become objects of control—such that we are constantly entrenched in a “keeping up with the Joneses” mentaltiy—and our inability to find release perpetuates a life of suffering.
Yet, to take this experiment deeper than merely cleaning out a closet, I found myself examining the things I have come to grasp tightly. Because aparigraha can also be translated as “non-coveting,” I challenged myself to seriously examine the ways in which I covet, control, and attempt to possess my body and my notions of body image. Like a hoarder, I have recently come to find myself controlled by an obsession with working out. After losing quite a bit of weight through a regimented exercise program, I have found myself enslaved to images on magazine covers, headlines on gossip tabloids, and self-perception of what I see in the mirror: a desire to possess the “perfect” thin body. What began as a kick off to fitness has quickly turned into a governing obsession with weight, clothing sizes, and caloric intake. Like the stars of “Hoarders,” I have found myself controlled by what I covet.
My absence of peace with my “own skin,” coupled with my worries and doubts of how others view my physical body, has lead me astray from the path of understanding who I truly am. I decided for this experiment that I needed to regain footing on that path, and that the best way for me to do this was through consistent sadhana practice, an asana practice that is intentional about quieting my mind’s fluctuations, and a critical examination of why I (and to some extent, my culture) value having an ideal body type. To implement these techniques, I used a mantra for sadhana, a deeper focus on my breath within asana, and conversations with friends (as well as journaling on my reflections) for my critical examination. Each provided valuable insight and progress within my aparigraha journey, and I am excited to share my results with you.