Chance encounters are certainly delightful. These can also be self-illuminating too. Last Sunday, I met a friend at the workshop whom I haven’t seen in over a year. One feature unique to her appearance is a group of Sanskrit characters tattooed on her upper back. Upon asking her for a translation she said, “Aparigraha,” and that it means “non-attachment.” This definition stuck was me. Being one of the five basic precepts (yamas) of the yogic philosophy, aparigraha certainly does not imply a detached state of being. Yet, I also tend to feel that its frequent translation as non-covetousness fails to capture its full significance. I mused – it must be an awfully subtle concept.
I intuit that the principle of aparigraha can be highly applicable to one’s posture practice. Yesterday morning I had a second surprising encounter which helped to stimulate my understanding. I was practicing in the back corner of the gymnasium with purpose and intent, when I looked past my left side in utthita hasta padangushtasana. My gaze (dristi) was instantly transfixed on a familiar face. None other than David Swenson was practicing his own primary series not 10 feet away! My own focus shifted upon this realization, yet his was ever so constant. In fact, as I looked more closely, I began to realize that his sheer unwaveringness was the truly impressive aspect of his practice. I instantly realized that my gaze too ought to be “non-attached” in principle.
We attend a workshop to share our practice with a teacher. There is little doubt that we are also driven by nature to share what makes us happy with those around us. Even if one practices in complete solitude, the yogi is still offering the expression of these postures with the breath and bandha elements. Dristi is highly important too; without steadiness here the auspicious character of the home practice cannot thrive in a studio, let alone a gymnasium. In this light, the principle of “non-attachment” can be realized by exercising a steady gaze, one which is neither too distracted nor too transfixed.