By Carrie Schneider, February, 2017
It’s the week after Christmas, and I sit fireside in upstate New York with the 14-year-old Lab I helped raise from puppyhood. These days he’s generally halfway across the country with the ex-boyfriend, so stroking his white fur I mourn our impending separation. “Even in Kyoto … I long for Kyoto,” the 17th-century poet Basho wrote, nailing it then as now—and writing a pretty good primer for yoga study into the bargain.
The blues for being there is the stuff of aparigraha—the yogi’s pledge not to cling to the things and people we want, to what and who we shouldn’t want, to memory and calculation, to life and time itself. This fifth of the yamas, or restraints, is the toughest for me hands down. (“I could become attached to a box of hair,” a coworker once uttered, striking a funny indelible chord.) So it happens that I sit staring into a crackling fire alongside my beloved dog, lamenting not only losing him, but also Christmas, with its sparkle, its scents—even the carols, yo. (And this yogini is Jewish.)
Without a doubt, clinging plays out interestingly, nowhere more than in our practice. Triangle: Bring it on. Revolved triangle: Time to go to the bathroom. Just do the poses you like and you’re in trouble, though. The “bits and bobs,” to quote Colleen, wind up overstretched and underutilized.
But when you turn poses like triangle and revolved triangle on their ear—when you parivritta them, in asana speak—you balance the openness of hips and groin through attentive use of your outer hips, buttocks, and thighs. Asana, like life, has a way of insisting we engage in the full catastrophe in order to reap homeostasis, not to mention samadhi.
The same is true of yoga philosophy. Aparigraha becomes possible when you put forth intense, loving effort fueled by strong surrender underpinned by right living—in short, by hewing to the eight-limbed path. So you do it. A lot. Regularly. That’s the practice. It’s never been about feeling good always.
Back to my cozy Christmas for a moment, please. When those coveted days with doggie got cut short by a death in my extended family, the object of my gaze shifted from things I glowingly adore to a sweet old man in a coffin—the perfect windup to a story of aparigraha. Death is where we’re all headed, we know academically. But abhinivesha—clinging to life—prevails even among the highest beings. What we fear will be taken from us we must share.
So if parigraha, or clinging, boils down to the “I, me, mine” lyricized by the great yogi George Harrison, a-parigraha, the restraint against it, is ultimately the embracing of us all. It is the practice of engendering love and compassion for the full, gorgeous catastrophe of existence.
Because the one with the most marbles ultimately loses anyway, yo. And we all win by grasping kaivalya, liberation, with open palms, the only way it will be held.