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The eight limbs of raja yoga include the yamas- or restraints. Among these five is aparigraha - or non attachment. As yoga is an ancient wisdom and practice I am comfortable saying that attachment has been a problem for ages. We, modern people, have this affliction as much as did the ancients. Yoga provides us with strategies and teachings to guide us in letting go. Here are some steps we can follow in order to begin to release death grip onto things that cause us to suffer.
First thing is to identify what we are holding on to.
What do we hold on to? Why would we need to release our grip? Is it the holding on that is causing the pain or is it the action or activity itself? Is it both? Bear in mind that this grip can be at the emotional, intellectual or even physical level - sometimes at all three. We need to know what are we grasping to before we can follow a path to release.
If you are like most you may have several areas in which holding on is causing problems. Some areas may be more problematic that others. It is where the discord between holding and letting go have come to an impasse where the suffering is felt and where the work may best be focused.
How do I let go?
What is the work and how do I do it? Yoga is a practice. It has several components nestled in the limbs of the royal path.
The other yamas, restraints, offer some guidance: non-harming, non lying, non- stealing as well as chastity or non-excess. Viewing the attachment through the lens of the yamas one can step through these ethics and apply them verily to each. If I take the ethic of non-harming I can evaluate what I am thinking, feeling, saying, doing considering the attribute of non-harming.
That gives me an idea about the scope of the problem. If I am buying a lot of things- I evaluate;
Using the niyama of self study, or svadhaya, one can investigate the process. The fact that “buying” has been self identified as an issue speaks to the truth that it is not a healthy activity in this case. Finding moderation will be key. (Note: Other attachments such as drug addiction, can only be addressed with full abstinence and other healing programs or modalities.)
Once the attachment is examined using non-harming, we can move to the next yama to gain more understanding. And so on. The lesson is learned at all levels; physical, emotional and spiritual, for the lesson to be fully absorbed. It may require re-learning from time to time. Such is the nature of being human.
The work is self investigation.
What do I do?
Just as the poses on the mat call for balance and investigation, so too do our behaviors. Some poses hurt us. Our anatomy is not geared for that particular pose; perhaps only for a time, perhaps for always. We practice the poses that lead to this one, we do modifications, we practice it mindfully or we pay the consequences with injury. With the guidance of our teachers, interpreted by the sensations in the body, we adapt and grow.
So, too, we practice letting go of activities, harmful mind sets, and behaviors. We practice. We breath, we look inside, we consult the divinity within and ask for the support of teachers, others who may have already passed this way. We accept what IS and work from there, we set our intention to change, perhaps invoking the help of our spiritual guides or higher power. We try, we readjust and try again. There is no magic - only practice, knowing that “practice is another work for magic.” Yoga gives us guidepost and utilizing us we manifest change.
Kyczy Hawk E-RYT200 is Author of “Yoga and the Twelve Step Path” and creator of the S.O.A.R. ™ Teacher Certification program: empowering yoga teachers to bring the healing powers of yoga to people in jails, institutions, recovery programs, and to yoga studios everywhere.