Yoga and Non Hoarding

By Laura Hansen.

Prior to the practice of Asana, are the practices of the Yamas and Niyamas which serve as an ethical code and foundation for the practice of yoga. These are moral ideals to strive for and the idea is improve the practice of these disciplines. The fifth yama is the practice of non-hoarding. Aparigraha, the Sanskrit word for this yama, literally means non-hoarding but can be translated as not wanting, non-attachment or greed-lessness.

bound angle pose

The Buddha tells us that all beings suffer. The cause of suffering is desire and aversion. Aparigrapha concerns the desire for things. We want what we don’t have and don’t have what we want. For example, I want to eat brownies for dinner and I don’t want to eat salad. This creates suffering. The bigger picture is that we have endless wants and desires often stirred up by our own monkey mind and marketing geniuses. We may want a better car, a better apartment, a better mate, better children, and to win the lottery.

All of these things are distractions which make it more difficult for our mind to be free. All of these things take time to acquire, to maintain, to think about and consider. How much time, energy, and resources do we spend taking care of our things whether they be technological gadgets or new clothes? Patanjali (1999) tells us that the path to enlightenment is through the mind, an uncluttered mind. As long as we are preoccupied with our Christmas ornament collection, having the biggest truck, plastic surgery, a new pair of shoes, or whatever, our mind is not free.

The easiest way to begin this practice is to start by cleaning out clutter. There are many benefits to cleaning out clutter including a less cluttered mind. Determine in advance what seems reasonable. Are ten pairs of socks enough, twenty, fifty? What is enough? Take items that are still in good condition to the homeless or the Goodwill. Do not donate broken items or stained clothing, these should be thrown away. The monk makes due with a bowl and most of us can survive with much less than we have.

Aparigraha is difficult to practice even for those who do not live in a consumption culture because the mind is always grasping outside itself. For those of us who do live in a materialistic culture, it can be even more challenging. Most North Americans are constantly bombarded by messages telling us that we want something we don’t have or worse that if we don’t have something we are going to be bad parents, unpopular, unattractive or unwanted. It helps to turn off the television and avoid consumer magazines. Most of us really don’t need to fly first class, to live in a huge house, to drive a new car, or wear the most expensive designers. Most of us could actually be much more content living in a smaller space, riding a bicycle and taking the train.

Once you clean out the clutter from your life, think about what else you can give up that you don’t need. Peace of mind is really so much more valuable than anything you own. The Buddha tells us that our desire is never satiated. Worse, every time we gratify a desire, it gets larger. The only way to gratify our desire for more, is to deny that desire.


Patanjali, Edited by Satchidananda, S. (1999). The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Buckingham, VA: Integral Yoga.

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