Non-possessiveness (Aparigraha): Studying the Yamas

Non-possessiveness. In modern society, the word is almost confusing. We are raised to own and purchase and consume. Houses, which are possessions in and of themselves, sometimes cannot sufficiently contain all of our possessions; we must sometimes rent storage.

But when you think about it, it’s stuff. It’s all just stuff. It doesn’t make one person greater than another or guarantee that somebody will be happier because they have a this instead of a that. And, I believe that we’ve all heard that you can’t take it with you.

Today, we will conclude our series on the Yamas. To refresh your memory, there are 5 Yamas:  1. Non-violence (Ahimsa), 2. Truthfulness (Satya), 3. Non-stealing (Asteya), 4. Non-excess (Brahmacharya), and today’s topic 5. Non-possessiveness (Aparigraha).

Do your possessions possess you?

In my house are two adults, two kids, and three cats. Especially around Christmas, my house becomes a veritable obstacle course to navigate. From our back door to our front door, cat toys, Legos, shoes, tricycles, Christmas presents, and chairs challenge my ability to get to our upstairs. If you feel like you are wading through stuff  just to navigate your own house, it is time to take action.


If you read my article on non-excess, you already know that my husband and I have been in the process of decluttering our house. We like space, especially when that means that we get to walk past our dining room table without tripping.

And, I recently found out that we do, in fact, have these horizontal surfaces called “counter tops.” Wild! It makes food prep so much easier at meal time.

The Law of Vacuum

footprints on the beachAll joking aside, there is something called The Law of Vacuum. It states that the universe hates empty space and that it will rush to fill any void that has been created. Think of how when you walk on the beach, you create a foot print. As the waves wash up the shore, water rushes in. When it leaves, the sand reshapes so the shore is smooth and flat. It is almost as if your foot print was never there.

To think about the Law of Vacuum further, what do you think happens if every space is filled? Nothing, stagnation, status quo–however you want to think of it. No changes can occur if there is no space for something new to come in.

Again, let’s return to the beach. When the sand is smooth and flat and the wave comes up on the shore, there is visibly no change to the beach front. In order for there to be a visible change to the shore, a void must be created.

Don’t  bring it home.

To stay philosophical for a moment longer, it is believed in the practices of yoga and Buddhism that contentment from objects is fluid and subject to change. In his article “The Five Yamas of Yoga,” Timothy Burgin writes,

“The yogis tell us that worldly objects cannot be possessed at all, as they are all subject to change and will be ultimately destroyed. When we become greedy and covetous we lose the ability to see our one eternal possession, the Atman, our true Self. And when we cling to what we have we lose the ability to be open to receive what we need.”

As humans, we sometimes make up our minds about wanting something. In fact, we convince ourselves that we’re not wanting it; we need it. This stubborn grip on the item can blind us to all the opportunities and options in front of us, and will ultimately prevent us from moving forward.

So, when you consider that your feelings regarding objects are very fluid and not permanent, before you bring something in to your home and life, ask yourself if you really need it. Is your attachment to this object emotional or will it continue to serve you as expected?

Let it go.

I’ve already talked about decluttering, so let’s talk about that emotional baggage that we all carry. Negative feelings like pain, anger, disappointment, and disgust (to name a few) weigh us down. Maybe you feel these feelings about events in your life, other people, or even yourself.

I want you to think about a person or event that give you strong negative feelings. Now, ask yourself, “Does this serve me?” Is it helpful for you to carry this negativity? Is negativity something you really need to store and stock in your personal container? Probably not.

As the Disney song advises, let it go. If you’ve never paid attention to the lyrics of this song, it’s about letting go of your past and the emotional baggage that comes with it. Sure, maybe you don’t relate to being a princess whose touch turns things to ice, but you might relate to feeling like you need to be someone you’re not to make other people happy.

Perhaps, like Elsa, you have said goodbye to your “perfect” self and are getting comfortable being your true self. Or, maybe you have realized that “The fears that once controlled me/Can’t get to me at all.” (We’re also watching a lot of Frozen these days.)

Here is a video from Deborah Adele. She tells an interesting story about monkeys and bananas that you won’t want to miss.

If you purchase this book through this link, it will earn me a small commission.

How are you practicing Aparigraha? Let us know in the comments below.

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About Sarah Stockett

Hi, I'm Sarah! I'm a certified Pilates and yoga instructor with a passion for pain relief. I believe you can use simple exercises to relieve your aches + pains. AND, I believe I can teach you how.