The fifth yama in Patanjali’s sutras is Aparigraha. It means non-hoarding, or “not accumulating beyond our capacity to use things in a proper way.”
What hoarding really is, is a lack of faith. It is fear there is only so much to go around. Fear that there are only so many pieces of the pie, and if we give something to someone else, we’ll be lacking. We cling to “stuff” or to relationships that might be hurting us, or we withhold information from others. We forget that like attracts like, and that when we give from a pure-hearted place, we actually open ourselves to receive even more goodness, abundance, and love.
When integrating the concept of Aparigraha, many yogis clear out their living spaces, donating accumulated “stuff” they don’t use to charity. They report feeling so much more free after purging like this. When we hold onto things we no longer need, (or maybe never needed) our energy is bogged down. Letting go of “stuff” frees up physical and emotional space, creating a feeling of lightness.
When practicing this concept out in the world maybe we pause before making purchases. Maybe we take a breath (or ten) and check in with our Higher self, making sure what we are about to accumulate is something that will actually enhance our lives and that we’re not buying it to fill an emotional void. It takes some bravery to stop, and ask, what is it I’m really feeling? What is it I really need?
Aparigraha also means not being greedy. It means not coveting what isn’t ours.
This concept in the yoga world can mean not being jealous of other students. What the yogi on the next mat’s body looks like, or what it can do, has nothing to do with our body or our practice. We are all exactly where we need to be in the present moment. We are all ever unfolding. There is a big difference between being inspired by other students, and being jealous or feeling competitive with them. The same goes for yoga teachers. It is healthy to learn from the success of other teachers. We can study what it is they are doing right. But when we get into the space of comparing numbers and basing our self-worth on how many turned up to our class, (or didn’t) we are coveting what isn’t ours, rather than truly developing what our own gifts are to bring.
The beautiful part of practicing Aparigraha is that you find yourself surrounded not by clutter, but by things you truly use and love. You find yourself surrounded by generosity, because that is the energy you are putting out into the world. By stripping away what is unnecessary, by refraining from comparing ourselves to others, we get to become more of who we are meant to be.
The great artist Michelangelo said, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” So it is with Aparigraha. As we chip away at our fear, our greed, our hoarding, our coveting, we are left with just our pure beautiful selves. We begin to sparkle our own unique light.
And that is precisely why we are here.