room for everyone

the third in a ten-part series exploring the yamas & niyamas

illustration by shawn kuruneru, shawn kuruneru

One evening at dusk, I spotted two adorable skunk kits wrestling on the ground under the apple tree beside the studio. I regularly saw the distinct black and white striped animals loitering around my compost, usually at dusk or dawn. I sometimes heard rustling noises beneath the floorboards as I tapped on my keyboard.

When my family acquired a new puppy, she quickly discovered the skunks. As the two different mammals got to know each other, the skunks began to spray their characteristic musk in response to the puppy’s mixture of curiosity and aggression, often at the edge of their den or right beneath the floorboards of my studio. My world took on an unmistakable, sulphurous aroma.

Aparigraha is the final of the five yamas listed by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. Forming the first of the eight limbs of yoga outlined in this ancient text, they are foundational principles of behaviour that govern a yogi or yogini’s interactions with the world. They guide us in how to relate to our surroundings, both human and nonhuman. While some translations of the yamas define them as “behavioural restraints,” the more I study and attempt to apply them, I see them as “natural behaviours” – principles that are at once genuine and poised.

Aparigraha is commonly defined as taking only the food we need to sustain our bodies. Its literal translation, according to T.K.V. Desikachar, is “hands off” or “not seizing opportunity.” It is also interpreted as taking only what is necessary, or not taking advantage of a situation. Practising aparigraha counteracts the human tendency to hoarding and greed. It inspires balance, moderation and the sharing of one’s world…

Eileen Delehanty Pearkes practises Ashtanga Yoga and lives in Nelson, BC.  She is the author of The Geography of Memory and co-author of The Inner Green. Eileen’s exploration of the yamas and niyamas will continue in the next issue as she interprets sauca (inner and outer cleanliness).


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