Tonight I taught my second to last graduate teacher class at Black Dog Yoga in Sherman Oaks. I threaded the theme of non-attachment into the sequence, explaining that when I think of why I do yoga, it's to put my mind in it's place. If you know me personally, you are well aware of my ability to analyze, over analyze and completely indulge in a thought. For me, the practice of yoga brings this overindulgence into focus, allowing me the time and discipline to cultivate more balance.
In Sanskrit the word for non-attachement is aparigraha. It translates to "non-grasping" and generally implies a non-attachment to material possessions, kind of like the concept of greed. But deeper studies reveal that non-grasping also means not holding onto more abstract possessions, like ideas, opinions and belief systems. Aparigraha does not mean that we should free ourselves of desires entirely, but rather, to cultivate an awareness of the source of these desires, and to accept that this, like so much in the human experience, is temporary.
I explained that our mind will take advantage of moments of stillness. While the students moved through a challenging transition from full crescent lunge into downward facing dog, I encouraged them to breathe fully in order to synchronize with the breath. This would allow them to stay in their bodies rather than paying attention to any self-evaluation coming from the mind.
I repeatedly said, "Let your breath move freely," because even great students will hold their breath moving through a challenging posture or transition. Cultivating a practice of "non-grasping," on and off the mat can be very difficult because so much of our lives are spent evaluating, being self-conscious, speculating, and comparing. It is important to have a vision of yourself that you work to create. But sometimes we allow the mind to get carried away, which causes us to lose touch with that seed-vision, that original feeling that inspires us to change and evolve.
I closed the class with an explanation of Patanjali's definition of yoga:
Yogash Chitta Vritti Nirodha
Yoga is the stopping of the twisting of the mind.
The mind is a sticky thing. It attaches to so much...ideas, opinions, belief systems, elaborate fantasies...the observance of aparigraha offers us the opportunity to draw supportive boundaries for our mind to respect, so that it can serve it's purpose to evaluate and analyze experiences in order to bring clarity - not to fog it up!