Minimalism and Yoga
Simplify your life with yoga
The more I dig into yoga, the more I notice how universal its teachings are. So many areas of our lives, from non-violent food choices (ahimsa) to being punctual (asteya – not stealing someone else’s time). Last week I watched the new minimalism documentary and I was just like, yeah not really something new*: that’s just Aparigraha. It is unfortunate that in many yoga places the only thing that is taught is asana (posture work). Do not get me wrong, I enjoy asana work and I believe in its power. I like to see body work as a door. A door to see the light of the endless possibilities yoga holds to change one’s life. Once we start looking beyond the body, we truly unlock the power of yoga.
So why do minimalism and aparigraha go hand in hand?
Minimalism doesn’t mean you are not having anything. If you have one thing that doesn’t spark good energy or you do not use it, you have too many things though. Minimalism is about only having things that add value to your life. That’s it. Have things that serve you and only things you need. Anything else is just clutter. In the book Clear your Clutter with Feng Shui, Karen says if we hold on to things with the thought “maybe I will need this in the future”, then we do not trust in the universe, that it will provide us with the things we need at the time we need them. Pretty powerful thought if you ask me – Manifestation one-o’-one.
So what is this aparigraha about?
Aparigraha is one of the yamas, our yogic social guidelines to life.
It translates into non-attachment, non-hoarding or non-greed. This yama teaches us to take only what we need and let go of it when we do not need it anymore (attachment). This can be on a non-material and material level:
Aparigraha in action
On the mat we can practice aparigraha in that way, that we practice without being attached to the outcomes of our practice. Being fully present and practicing for the practice not that we are expecting anything in return. Like true Karma yoga – we do good without expecting anything in return, we give the outcomes fully to the universe, knowing it will take care of us when we need it. When you are free of the expectations life will reveal as it should be. It really isn’t easy as most of us are programmed to do things in exchange from as early as childhood: you clean up your room then you can have ice cream. But once we master the art of aparigraha a shift of energy and trust into the universe will take place with magnitude. On our yoga path it can be seen that it is all about the journey not the destination.
Aparigraha in the Gita and Sutras and today
In the Bhagavad Gita, one of the essential yogic texts, Krishna says: “Let your concern be with action alone, and never with the fruits of action. Do not let the results of action be your motive, and do not be attached to inaction.”
Also Pantajali Sutras have been written many centuries before we started living in a world full of things, abundance of convenience products and someone who wants to sell us something around the corner. Karen shares a beautiful example about knives. In Bali for example there is one knife in the house. In the west we often have 5 or more knives and how many of your knives are sharp? Do you really need 5 knives – how often do you cut with 5 knives at a time?
And ever thought about why there are seasons in fashion? So they can keep on selling you stuff every few months. To which cost though? Do you know where your clothes come from and who is making them? Do you still have an overview over all the tinctures in your bathroom? Are they tested on animals? Do you need all of them at the cost of an innocent being?
Think about it. How often do you buy things you really don’t need? And then they just take up space. It gets worse when you are in a job, which you do not enjoy, where you spend your life energy to buy things that just end up in the back of the closet or even worse you start paying for storage. Why not work less, buy less and live more?
Mental clutter (worrying causes suffering)
The next thing is that we get attached to these things and start worrying about losing them. We pay even more money for insurance and we sometimes do not use the precious things so they do not get broken and buy something else instead to use, while we wait for that special day to take the other thing out of the closet again… I think you can see the vicious cycle here. Enjoy it while it lasts.
And once you take it in your hand and it doesn’t feel good right away or you haven’t used it in the past year: pass it on. Maybe someone out there is in need for that thing and can give it new energy.
Relationships and attachment
Holding on and forgetting to enjoy can also be with people, sometimes we get so attached to our partners or friends that we only think about not losing them instead of enjoying the time we have been given together, knowing that everything will come to an end and we need to accept that we do not know when. So call your loved one now and tell the you love them.
You are enough
You do not need that extra thing to have an identity. Take only what you need. Do good things without being attached to their outcomes. Do not take more from the planet you can actually use. Do you really need to eat meat 3 times a day? Do you really need that extra sweater? Can you borrow that book from the library? Imagine what you can do with the time, energy and money (which is basically a currency for energy and time when you think about it) you free up from reducing your possessions and want-haves to a minimum. Only having things that create value.
A yogic way to minimalism
Aparigraha can be applied to so many fields in your life. Living a non attached life might not be easy in the first place, but it will provide you with more freedom in the long run. More freedom to work in a job that covers your needs and doesn’t just end up hoarding money for later (knowing there is no later, there is only now), freedom to enjoy our relationships while they last without worrying what is when they are not around anymore, freedom for the planet if we reuse our things and don’t just buy a new thing every season, freedom to a lot of souls that are not eaten because someone told you you need 3 times a day (you really don’t) and freedom of a planet that we only take from what we really need. Living a life with a minimal impact on the planet and freeing our souls from attachment and greed. This is living a yogic life (and a little bit more).
Less is more
Start with freeing yourself of clutter, giving it onwards and being mindful of what you spend your energy on and it can lead to a great awakening that we are really blinded by all the things that we hoarded over the years. Try to get rid one thing a day and then think twice before you buy anything new. Less is more.
*I had the same realization when my accident stumbled about the book Think and Grow Rich. Really also nothing new from the yoga teachings. Let me know if I should blog about that another time.