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Non-Attachment

“Abhyasa Vairagyabhyam Tannirodhah” –Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras 1.12

The idea of non-attachment is foundational to yoga. In the Yoga Sutras, Sri Swami Satchidananda translates Patanjali’s 1.12 sutra as “These mental modifications are restrained by practice and non-attachment.” The “mental modifications” are fluctuations of the mind, mind chatter, or really anything that takes us away from the present moment.

Through a combined one-two punch of yoga practice and non-attachment, Patanjali says we can free ourselves from those fluctuations and just be here now.

Attachment and non-attachmentnonattachment

When we become attached—to ideas, people, relationships, communities, things, etc.—we start to form little dependencies on those things. When I believe that I truly cannot live without, say, my car, I grow a dependency on my car. I might rely on my car to transport myself to work, but the idea of having—or losing—my car might begin to hold fear and translate into my thoughts or actions.

These thoughts of fear can follow into any kind of attachment: What happens if my car breaks? What if I lose this job? How could I go on without this person? What happens when it’s over? This fear can start to control our actions and reactions.

Choosing to let go, or even hearing the call to let go, is a practice. Learning to trust our intuition when it’s time to let go can be a challenge, one that some people learn early and others never learn. When we hear this call, we have a choice: to ignore that call, or to give up our attachment before the universe takes a more forceful hand.

So what happens when we do let go? When we lean into impermanence? When we savor each moment as something fleeting? It’s possible that you may feel loss. It’s also possible that the universe will use that new space to offer something much more suited to you.

Stepping onto your mat

While this is a big concept that can be applied to most anything, there are ways you can start to incorporate this practice on your mat. Think about your relationship with half pigeon. Do you dread this pose when the instructor calls for it? Do you hope all class that she will call for it? Both of these reactions are forms of attachment, either attached to dislike or love of a shape.

When you feel a label in your thoughts, like “good v bad” “better v worse” or “like v dislike,” see if you can notice those thoughts, then shift them to descriptors. What am I actually feeling here? Where is sensation? What’s the quality of the sensation?

By bringing your thoughts to the present moment instead of stories around the posture, you start to release some of the attachment around it.

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