The line between being inspired and coveting is a thin one. You can tell the difference by how you feel. Inspiration, well, makes you feel inspired and lit up. Coveting what someone else has makes you feel dejected, anxious, envious, jealous, angry and frustrated.
On my mat, I tend to be inspired when I am working with a new pose or I am watching people do poses I have not been given. I tend to feel like I am coveting after I have been working with a pose for a long time and I still can’t do it. The difference is expectations. When I have expectations that I can do something or I have no expectations, I am inspired. When I have high expectations for myself, that I should be able to do a pose by now, I covet the ability of others.
Aparigraha, non coveting, is one of the Yamas or 8 limbs of yoga. Coveting leads to suffering and it counteracts the peace of the yogic path. We start to cling to pose achievement and lose sight of the true aim of yoga which is creating a calm still mind. A calm still mind transcends the boundaries of the flesh and lands us in the heart of who we truly are which is limitless spirit having a limited experience. The limited feeling we encounter, when we are stuck for years on a pose, is an opportunity to take our awareness back to the true source of our unlimited power;the true Self.
There is a verse from the Yoga Sutras that never gets quoted in anyone’s yoga class. Probably because it points to the fact that, on the yogic path, obsession with the physical body has an expiration date. I actually did see this verse quoted on Instagram underneath a picture of a smiling girl doing a handstand. It was really bizarre. You will see why in a moment. Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 2:40 says that, “by purification, we develop a disinterest in our bodies and in the body of others.” What?!!! Yeah. Supposedly, as we take care of our bodies, we began to realize that their is an endless amount of nonstop cleaning and upkeep. Through this realization, the yogi shifts their focus from the temporary nature of the body on to something more enduring like the energy and spirit within. The yogi also realizes that other humans are also in the cycle of cleanliness and dirtiness, and hopefully, it turns the yogi off from wanting to chase the flesh of others.
At some point, our asana practice shifts from simply being a source of physical purification to also including pranic purification which may or may not include a handstand. Probably doesn’t. We start to take our steady comfortable seat for pranayama, the practice of learning how to control our life force. To get here, we have to get off the cycle of coveting and pose chasing. We have to find contentment/santosha and aparigraha/noncoveting.
Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail email@example.com.