Tag Archive for: aparigrapha

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.[1] 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.

[1] https://singingheartyoga.blogspot.com/2011/02/aparigraha.html

Last, my inquisition into the systemic perpetuations of “thin as beauty” led me to a place of introspection that I didn’t realize I had been avoiding.  Many consumers are conscious of the “airbrush techniques” that lead models to thinner bodies and flawless skin, but we (women especially) forget this illusion of perfection when we are consistently surrounded by it in all forms of mass media.[1] For me personally, the perpetuation of thinness seems to have also stemmed from a lack of security in who I am as a person and how that person was in relationship with others.  Upon reflection, I have come to see that the beginning of my fitness kick perhaps wasn’t ever purely just for health and wellness, but to make up for a lack of intimacy with a (now ex) partner.  I victimized my body for the lack of connection, thinking “If only I was thinner than perhaps he would see me as more desirable.”  Through hindsight—and this experiment—I have come to see that the problem was never really my body, but me forgetting who I am (a manifestation of the divine) and what it means to be me.

[1] This is not to say the problem does not effect men/boys as well.  From a very young age, boys are taught—through action figures or cartoons—that men are to have bulging muscles.  We can see this through the popular “Star Wars” action hero, Hans Solo (for example), who looked like a man of average build in the 1970’s but has suddenly steroid-ed out in his contemporary personification.