Aparigraha Yoga Flow: Yoga Class Plan for Non-Gripping
By: Steph Ball-Mitchell, E-RYT-500, RPYT, RCYT, YACEP
Our Aparigraha Yoga Flow is designed for teaching the importance of our fifth yama, non-gripping or non-possessiveness. Many Westerners find themselves in a yoga class that changes their lives, being introduced to the practice through movement. While asana, or yoga poses, are a big part of the practice of yoga, they are only one of eight principles that the practice is based on. Yoga is thousands of years old, and it comes to us from India. It's an ancient practice that is rooted in the eight-limb path of yoga, as laid out in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras.
The eight-limb path includes eight steps. The first limb is yamas, or our external disciplines. the second limb is niyamas, or our internal disciplines. The third limb is asana, or yoga poses. The fourth limb is pranayama, or breathwork. The fifth limb is pratyahara which means to withdraw from the senses. The sixth limb is dharana, which means concentration. The seventh limb is dhyana which is meditation. Finally, the eighth limb is samadhi, which is pure absorption.
The Five Yamas are ethical principles or moral guidelines in yoga. They are the first limb of the Eight Limbs of Yoga, and are intended to guide us in our interactions with others and the world around us. If you're working to understand the yamas, we recommend reading our post on the yamas. Let's look at each of the five Yamas a bit deeper:
Ahimsa (non-violence): Ahimsa encourages us to avoid causing harm to others, whether it be physically, emotionally, or mentally. This Yama also includes refraining from harming ourselves, whether through self-criticism or unhealthy habits. Ahimsa invites us to cultivate kindness, compassion, and empathy towards all living beings. Check out our Ahimsa Yoga Flow.
Satya (truthfulness): Satya encourages us to speak and live in truth. This Yama includes being honest with ourselves and others, and avoiding deception or falsehood. Satya invites us to cultivate a deeper sense of authenticity and integrity, and to communicate with clarity and honesty. Check out our Satya Yoga Flow.
Asteya (non-stealing): Asteya encourages us to refrain from taking that which is not freely given. This Yama includes avoiding theft or deception, as well as being respectful of others' time, energy, and attention. Asteya invites us to cultivate a deeper sense of gratitude and contentment, and to appreciate the abundance and blessings in our lives. Check out our Asteya Yoga Flow.
Brahmacharya (moderation): Brahmacharya encourages us to practice moderation and self-control in all areas of life. This Yama includes avoiding excess, whether it be in food, drink, or other pleasures, and cultivating a sense of balance and harmony. Brahmacharya invites us to cultivate a deeper sense of self-discipline and mindfulness, and to avoid being controlled by our desires and impulses. Check out our Brahmacharya Yoga Flow.
Aparigraha (non-attachment): Aparigraha encourages us to avoid clinging to material possessions or attachments, and to cultivate a sense of contentment and gratitude in all aspects of life. This Yama includes avoiding greed, jealousy, and the desire for power or status. Aparigraha invites us to cultivate a deeper sense of detachment and equanimity, and to find joy and fulfillment in the present moment.
The Five Yamas are intended to guide us in our relationships with others and the world around us, and to help us cultivate a deeper sense of inner peace and harmony. By practicing the Yamas, we can create a more harmonious and balanced world, and cultivate a greater sense of personal and social responsibility.
Aparigraha is the fifth of the five Yamas in yoga, which are ethical principles or moral guidelines that are intended to guide us in our interactions with others and the world around us. Aparigraha can be loosely translated as non-possession, or non-greed, and it encourages us to cultivate a sense of contentment and gratitude in all aspects of life.
In Sanskrit, "a" is a prefix and it means "non." Pari means "on all sides," and "graha" means "to take" or "to grab" or even "to seize." So when we put it all together, aparigraha means to not take more than you need.
In the context of yoga, aparigraha is often associated with the idea of letting go. This includes letting go of material possessions, but it also extends to letting go of negative emotions, limiting beliefs, and attachments to outcomes or expectations.
Aparigraha invites us to cultivate a sense of detachment and equanimity, and to find joy and fulfillment in the present moment, rather than constantly striving for more. It encourages us to appreciate the abundance and blessings in our lives, rather than focusing on what we lack or what we wish we had.
Practicing aparigraha can have a number of benefits for our mental and emotional well-being. It can help reduce feelings of anxiety, stress, and overwhelm, and cultivate a greater sense of inner peace and calm. It can also help us develop a deeper sense of gratitude and contentment, and improve our relationships with others.
Here are a few tips for incorporating aparigraha into your yoga practice and your daily life:
Practice letting go: In your yoga practice, pay attention to any areas of tension or holding, and see if you can consciously release them. In your daily life, practice letting go of negative emotions, limiting beliefs, and attachments to outcomes or expectations.
Cultivate a sense of gratitude: Take time each day to reflect on the blessings in your life, and practice gratitude for them. This can be as simple as taking a few deep breaths and focusing on the present moment, or keeping a gratitude journal.
Simplify your life: Look for ways to simplify your life and reduce clutter, whether it be in your physical space or in your schedule. This can help create a greater sense of space and openness, and make it easier to cultivate a sense of detachment and equanimity.
Give back: Look for ways to give back to others, whether it be through volunteering, donating to a charity, or simply practicing random acts of kindness. This can help cultivate a greater sense of connection and compassion, and reduce feelings of self-centeredness or attachment.
When I sat down to write out this Aparigraha Yoga Flow, quite a few things came up for me. I wasn't sure which direction to go with it. For yoga teachers, it can sometimes be overwhelming to sequence a vinyasa class because we have so much information that it is challenging to narrow it to a specific intention. I decided that when I think of the concept of non-gripping, I think of letting go, and what better way to let go on the mat than to come into a heart opening practice. As the chest opens and the heart is shining towards the sky, there is this sense of freedom and release and that is what Aparigraha is all about for me.
These are some heart-openers that came to mind when I was writing this yoga sequence for aparigraha. You can practice them individually or as part of a greater practice, maybe mixing them into a vinyasa flow.
Heart opening yoga poses can be a great way to cultivate a sense of non-attachment or non-greed, and to create a greater sense of connection and compassion with ourselves and others. Here are a few heart opening yoga poses that can be particularly helpful for cultivating the energy of aparigraha:
Start by lying face down on your mat, with your forehead resting on the ground and your hands resting on the floor, palms down and underneath the shoulders, just slightly in front of your shoulders. Bring your legs together, with the tops of your feet resting on the ground. Inhale and press into your hands, lifting your head and chest off the ground. Keep your elbows close to your sides and your shoulders away from your ears. Use your back muscles to lift your torso higher, bringing your chest forward and upward. Keep your neck long and gaze forward, without straining your neck. Press your thighs and feet firmly into the ground, and engage your glutes and core to support your lower back. Take a few deep breaths in this position, feeling the stretch in your chest and shoulders, and the opening of your heart center. Keep rolling the chest and shoulders open. To release the pose, exhale and slowly lower your chest and head back down to the mat.
Be mindful not to over-arch your lower back, as this can put pressure on your lumbar spine. Instead, focus on lifting from your upper back and keeping your core engaged. If you have any injuries or limitations, modify the pose by keeping your elbows bent, or practicing a gentler backbend such as sphinx pose. As with any yoga practice, listen to your body and work within your own limitations. Avoid any movements that cause pain or discomfort, and focus on moving mindfully and with intention. As you practice cobra, think about releasing anything you don't need.
Begin by kneeling on the floor with your knees hip-distance apart, and your hands on your lower back. Make sure your knees are directly under your hips, and your hands are resting on your sacrum, with your fingers pointing down. Inhale deeply, and lift your chest and heart center up towards the ceiling, creating a gentle arch in your upper back. As you exhale, begin to slowly drop your head back, and reach your hands down towards your heels. If this is comfortable for you, you can rest your hands on your heels, or bring your palms to the back of your hips. Keep your thighs perpendicular to the floor, and engage your glutes and core to protect your lower back. Take a few deep breaths in this position, allowing the chest to expand and the heart center to open. To come out of the pose, bring your hands back to your lower back, and slowly lift your head and chest back up to a neutral position. Rest in child's pose for a few breaths to release any tension in the spine.
Some variations of camel pose include extending one arm up towards the ceiling, or reaching both arms back towards the feet. If you have any injuries or limitations, it's important to modify the pose or avoid it altogether. As with any yoga practice, it's important to listen to your body and work within your own limitations.
Begin by lying on the back on your yoga mat, with the legs extended and the arms at the sides. Bend the knees and bring your feet flat on the mat, hip-distance apart. Lift the hips slightly, and slide the hands underneath the hips, palms facing down. The elbows should be tucked in towards the sides of the body. Inhale, and press into the forearms and elbows to lift the chest towards the ceiling. You can also lift the head and gaze up if it feels comfortable. Keep the legs engaged and the feet pressing into the mat. You can also point the toes and press the heels away from you to further engage the legs. Take a few deep breaths in this position, feeling the opening across the chest and through heart center. Envision yourself releasing all that you don't need, in the spirit of aparigraha. To release the pose, exhale and slowly lower the chest and head back down to the mat.
Be mindful not to strain your neck by over-extending or collapsing your head back. Instead, support your head with your hands or gently tuck your chin towards your chest. If you have any injuries or limitations, modify the pose by using a block or folded blanket to support your head and upper back. As with any yoga practice, listen to your body and work within your own limitations. Avoid any movements that cause pain or discomfort, and focus on moving mindfully and with intention. To deepen the pose, you can bring your legs into lotus position, with the soles of your feet together and your knees opening out to the sides. This can increase the stretch in your hips and add an additional heart-opening element to the pose.
Lie flat on the back on your yoga mat with the knees bent and the feet hips width apart. Keep the arms at the sides with the palms facing down. Press the feet and arms into the mat and lift the hips up towards the ceiling. Keep the knees directly over the ankles and the thighs parallel to each other. Interlace the hands underneath the back and straighten the arms. Walk the shoulders closer together, but keep the neck long and relaxed. Engage the glutes and core to keep the lower back supported, and press the soles of the feet into the mat to lift the hips higher. Take a few deep breaths in this position, feeling the openness in the chest and shoulders, and the strength in the legs and core. Allow the openness to guide you towards releasing all that you don't need. To release the pose, slowly lower the hips back down to the mat.
Make sure to engage the glutes and core to support the lower back and prevent any strain. Avoid over-arching the back and keep the hips and thighs parallel to each other. You can use a block or folded blanket under the shoulders to support the back and make the pose more comfortable.
If you have any neck or shoulder issues, keep your arms at your sides instead of interlacing your hands. To deepen the pose, you can come onto the balls of your feet and lift your heels off the mat. You can also try coming up onto your toes and straightening your arms overhead. As with any yoga practice, listen to your body and work within your own limitations. Avoid any movements that cause pain or discomfort, and focus on moving mindfully and with intention.
Pranayama, or breath control, is a powerful tool to help cultivate the qualities of non-greed or non-gripping when putting together an Aparigraha Yoga Flow. Here is my favorite pranayama practice that can be helpful for promoting aparigraha as you move through your yoga sequence for aparigraha:
Vishama Vritti is a pranayama practice that involves irregular or uneven breath control. Vishama means unequal and Vritti means mental fluctuations. It is a challenging technique that can be used to increase mental and emotional resilience, as well as to develop greater awareness of the breath and the mind.
To practice Vishama Vritti, begin by sitting comfortably and bringing your attention to your breath. Take a few deep, slow breaths to help relax your body and calm your mind.
Next, begin to intentionally change the length and rhythm of your inhales and exhales. Breathing through the nose, inhale for a count of 4, hold the breath for a count of 2, and exhale for a count of 6. You have the option to increase the count of the exhales from here.
The key to Vishama Vritti is to intentionally create an irregular or uneven pattern of breath. This can help challenge your mind and create a sense of mental and emotional resilience, as you learn to adapt to changing circumstances and challenges.
When the exhales are longer than the inhales, we really practice aparigraha in our pranayama techniques as we focus on the release of the breath more so than taking it in. To learn more about Vishama Vritti or other breathwork techniques, you can take our pranayama teacher training online.
Ganesha mudra is a hand gesture that is often used in yoga and meditation practices to help cultivate strength, stability, and focus. It is named after Ganesha, the Hindu deity who is often associated with overcoming obstacles and challenges.
To practice Ganesha mudra, begin by sitting comfortably in a seated position, with your back straight and your hands resting on your thighs. Take a few deep breaths to help calm your mind and center your attention.
Next, bring your hands in front of your heart center, with your fingers interlaced. Your right thumb should be pointing down, and your left thumb should be pointing up. he fingers of each hand will touch each other softly with knuckles softly bent. Interlock your fingers and pull your hands away from one another with hands and elbows parallel to the floor.Press your hands together firmly, and keep your elbows lifted and slightly away from your sides.
As you hold the mudra, focus on the feeling of strength and stability that it creates in your body. You can also visualize Ganesha, the elephant-headed deity, who is said to embody strength, wisdom, and intelligence.
Ganesha mudra can be used in a variety of yoga and meditation practices, to help cultivate a sense of inner strength and resilience. It can also be a helpful tool for working with challenges and obstacles, both on and off the mat.
Inhale first. As you exhale, begin to Om and then call on the energetic powers of Ganesha by chanting his name. "Gam" or "Ganapatayei" is for Ganesha, Om is the sound of the universe and "namaha" means name. Ganesha is known for removing all obstacles. This mantra can help you to release and remove any obstacles that are blocking you as you practice this Aparigraha Yoga Flow.