Aparigraha: The Art of Letting Go

Discard everything that does not spark joy. – Marie Kondo

In June our exploration of the yamas, or moral disciplines, of yoga come to a close with an exploration of the yama Aparigraha, or non-possessiveness.

This yama, essentially, is about letting go and about learning to discern what we need. Aparigraha teaches us to accept what we have and not accumulate more than what we truly need.


Aparigraha teaches us the art of letting go.

In yoga class we are instructed to pay attention to the breath: to deepen the breath, to put our attention on the breath. We exhalefully, knowing that there will be an inhale to follow. We let go of the breath and are nourished by the next. We learn to trust the cycle of letting go to allow space for the next breath in.

We can learn the principles of aparigraha through the inhale and the exhale. Deborah Adele in the book The Yamas and Niyamas says,

What if we could trust life like we trust the breath? What if we could take in all the nourishment of the moment and then let it go fully, trusting that more nourishment will come? Just like the breath gives us nourishment, so does life in the form of homes, work, relationships, routines that bring ease… Aparigraha invites us to practice divine play, experience full intimacy and contact with the moment, and then to let go so the next thing can come.

Expanding our awareness of what non-possessiveness might look like from our physical body to our physical space, we can look to Marie Kondo as inspiration. Marie Kondo is a Japanese author who pens books about organization and simplifying your home and getting rid of items that no longer spark joy. She asks that you regard each item in your home and keep only those that speak to your heart and spark joy. Everything else you should get rid of. Marie Kondo is a master at letting go!

Marie Kondo knows that it is a worthwhile effort to notice the physical things you’ve surrounded yourself with and examine whether these things make you feel free and light or weigh you down. This process can help you experience the difference between enjoyment and attachment.

One other way we can practice non-possessiveness can come up is by managing expectations. How do you demand, whether unconsciously or consciously, fulfillment and comfort from other people and other situations? For example, whenever I go out to my favorite restaurants, I usually order the same thing. My husband pokes fun at me for never being adventurous and trying something new. But I know what I like, right? I know that what I ate here the first time was great, and so why would I order anything else? But what happens when they are out of what I love and I have to order something else? I have a choice to allow this to make me grumpy or upset at them for running out or trying something new that might be as amazing or better than what I usually get. I can choose to be attached to what I wanted or be adventurous and try something else. This is a small example of how expectations can limit experience and make it hard to let go of what you were anticipating.

How to practice Aparigraha in life:

  • Let go enough to trust that the next thing will be there to support you.
  • Let go of things in your life that are no longer serve you.
  • Allow your point of view or expectations about something to be changed.

How to practice Aparigraha on the mat:

  • Let go of trying to be something you aren’t and honor your self and your body as it is.
  • Let go of envy and jealousy and genuinely celebrate the people around you.
  • Be curious about your practice: where will it take you today? What can you learn? What new space can you discover in yourself?
  • Stay with your breath. Inhale. Exhale. Trust.

Throughout the month of June we'll be discussing and practicing various aspects of  aparigraha at Watershed Wellness. To see a schedule of our classes click here.

As always, we're happy to practice in good company, and hope that you'll join us on the mat soon.

Written by Amanda Barp

Amanda Barp is co-founder of Watershed Wellness, a licensed massage therapist with 10+ years experience, a registered yoga teacher with a passion for learning and teaching about the human body & how to feel at home in it.