Playful Practice

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Aparagraha

on August 21, 2014

This week we wrapped up our summer series on the Yamas of yoga with Aparagraha. This concept has several translations, all similar but different at the same time and I felt them all important.

Aparagraha = Be grateful, Don’t take more than you need, Share and Let it go

We started with Be Grateful. For the kids who have been in my class since last year this is nothing new. We use gratitude journals form November through December and talk about having an “Attitude of Gratitude” all year long. One yogi talked about how she visited a friend who lived in a small apartment and how it made her thankful for her own home, but how even a small home is something to be thankful for when there are kids without homes. It’s funny how easy it is to think of things we are grateful for, but how we tend to go through each day without having those thoughts cross our minds. To practice Aparagraha we have to make it a conscious decision to stop for a moment and be grateful. I, once again, encouraged our group to make it a daily practice to stop and think of one things they are grateful for.

Don’t take more than you need…. We recalled Asteya (not stealing – things, time, energy, feelings) and related it to Aparagraha, not taking more than you need. A few of our yogis have spent the summer at the Boys and Girls Club and there are often snacks or treats the staff brings out for the kids. One of our yogis mentioned how cranky she gets when she is hungry and how she likes to take 2 or 3 of whatever is handed out. She paused for a moment and said “I should make sure I only take one because if we run out than someone else might be more grumpy and hungry than me”. This self reflection and realization of how to apply these strange Sanskrit words in real life situations is exactly why we have these talks! We also talked, again, about natural resources. California is in the worst drought in our history as a state so I found this a wonderful time to talk about water conservation. Each of the kids had great ideas on how to save water by using only what they need. I’m sure their parents have asked them to turn off the water when they brush their teeth, but discussing it in the context of Aparagraha, of being a yogi on and off the mat, just reinforces how important such a little idea can be.

Sharing. A skill we try to teach from toddler hood on, but it bears repeating. The kids talked about how a friend had forgotten lunch so they shared their own (lot’s of food talk this class, maybe they needed a snack!). They talked about sharing in a friend’s excitement on their birthday; being happy for them and trying not to feel jealous about the attention or gifts the friend is receiving. We talked about sharing feelings, even when they are not happy ones, because we shouldn’t be afraid to express ourselves. This lead into “Let it go”. Which of course had them break into (Frozen) song! But I like to think the popularity of the song has something to do with the message, not just the Disney marketing machine behind it. Jealousy, anger, frustration…. all are valid feelings. We should acknowledge them and know we are human and emotions are OK. But those emotions can be unhealthy and there are things we need to learn to let go. Most of the kids talked about how they donate toys or clothes they have outgrown to share and let go of unnecessary possessions. We even got a little deeper and discussed how we can feel happy when we appreciate all the we have, yet feel upset when we let to much WANT into our lives. Wanting a bigger house, more toys, more clothes…. All that wanting just makes us feel LESS. If we let go of all those wants and practice gratitude for all we have we feel much more whole and happy.

So there was a LOT of discussion today. So much to talk about with one funny word! We followed up our discussion by dancing it out to Let it Go (with some freeze yoga of course). 

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