I confess – I’m a yogi style queen. On my yoga journey, I have transferred my passion for all things stylish in shoes and handbags to yoga clothes. My Jimmy Choos look mournfully at me underneath some yoga mats, my Balenciaga handbag scowls at me hanging behind some yoga capri pants and sports top. My designer suits sit in the cupboard in the corner, having not been worn for years.
Yogis build their lives on a set of moral values – yamas and niyamas. One yama is Aparigraha, roughly translated as ‘non-greed’, ‘non-possessiveness’, and ‘non-attachment’. This yama teaches to take only what we need, keep only what serves us in the moment, and to let go when the time is right.
“For the past few years, I have been struggling with the idea that I can have beauty and aesthetic in my yoga clothes”
Is yoga style being greedy?
If I was a monk, I don’t need much. My food is given to me daily, my robes replaced when they fall apart. I have seen monks in Cambodia & Thailand with mobile phones and video cameras. Could it be that my yoga clothes are like those monk’s mobile phones? Could I do my yoga in something – I don’t think I can say it – less stylish?
If I look in my wardrobe, I do have many clothes, shoes and handbags, and they were very public hallmarks of success. All beautiful, well designed, some still look beautiful. I have not worn them for years and cannot bear to throw them away.
I compare this wardrobe to the one I now have for yoga and everyday wear, and the amount and number is significantly less. But I think I have learnt something else practicing aparigraha on the way…
Conscious living is not just about what we eat or how we meditate…
When it became obvious that I could not wear certain clothes as a yoga teacher (imagine a Ferragamo winter suit on a yoga mat), I had to make choices about what to buy.
“Practicing aparigraha is really a practice of conscious living – something all of us can do.”
I chose companies who pay their employees reasonable wages. Have signed international labour agreements so that people in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka or wherever the workers live, have decent living wages and safe working conditions. Companies who have some quality fashion technology, so the product looks good even after 5 Singapore washes. And who design understanding that every body is different – yogis come in all shapes and sizes and I want to support a company that recognises this.
The consequences of conscious living
Becoming enlightened is one thing, maintaining this state in a world of ever increasing distractions is quite another.
I think I am taking only what I need. However…. my yoga clothes are not cheap, but when I buy products made in sweatshops, with poor quality fabric, I end up having to buy more frequently.
But wanting beauty – is that not very yogi like?
I love funky prints, vibrant happy colours. For others it might be the softness of the fabric or the way it helps deal with sweat. I am reminded of a quote from Pema Chodron when I start to feel my need for beauty descend into something else:
“Life is glorious, but life is also wretched. Appreciating the gloriousness inspires us, encourages us, cheers us up, gives us a bigger perspective, energizes us. But we can get arrogant and start to look down on others, and there is a sense of making ourselves a big deal and being really serious about it, wanting it to be like that forever. The gloriousness becomes tinged by craving and addiction.” Pema Chodron, Start Where You Are
The more we hoard material possessions, the more we attach to and worry about losing these possessions. We start off buying stuff thinking it will make us happy, then one day we have so much to worry about, we are unhappy!
Setting our past free
We can lighten our life by selling some of the beautiful things we don’t need, or give them to charity, living a life free and more glorious – who doesn’t want that?
Practicing aparigraha is a case of constant vigilance. It has paid off for me in huge happiness dividends.
In writing this, I metaphorically and literally kicked myself in the butt – I have parcelled up my old work suits, shoes and handbags in a box for my daughter. What she doesn’t want, she can give to a charity that helps Australian women who have been victims of domestic violence. You have no idea how good that felt….
ANZA October Magazine published an edited version of this article. for more information go to ANZA Community.