The 8 limbs of Yoga: 5th Yama: Aparigraha - absence of envy
The yamas and niyamas are the founding principles or the "code of ethics" for yoga
Aparigraha is one of the yamas or restraints. It is translated as the absence of envy or jealousy
Jealousy is an insidious feeling. Its a confusing one too. The assumption we make when we are jealous is that someone is better than us. Envy creates equal confusion. The assumption we make when we are envious is that someone has something more than us.
For most of us jealousy and envy stem from childhood.
Travel back to those feelings you had when you didn't get the attention that your siblings got, when you didn't get the object, toy, gift, time that another member of your family received.
You became anxious and jealous. Envious.
Jealousy most often rears its head in relationships. It's a threat that your partner, loved one will turn their attention elsewhere. And leave you... stranded, alone, isolated.
Why is this such a strong feeling for so many people? Because of the assumptions you make about yourself. If your partner starts to pay attention to somebody else, maybe even starts to flirt with them, your insecurity about yourself and your relationship will create feelings of jealousy.
Why did the ancient yogi's tell us not to be jealous? Why did they recommend for us to abstain from indulging in jealousy? Aparigraha?
Because it pulls you away from who you truly are. Why is it so disturbing if your partner puts their attention on someone else? Because most of us have some childhood feelings that we never processed properly that make us feel inadequate and insecure when we did not have the full attention of our parents.
We made the lack of our parents attention to us all about us. We concluded that we were not worthy of their attention. We were unlovable. That we were not important.
As we grow up, we don't properly question or work through those feelings and so we transfer those feelings onto our friends, lovers and partners.
We unconsciously say "my self-worth, my feeling good about myself, my self-esteem is entirely dependent on you loving me, staying with me, having all of your attention 100% of the time on me"
Which is highly unreasonable, if not impossible and to think such a thing is a guarantee of a set up for failure.
And when your partner does fail to put their 100% undivided attention on you. Which they will. You feel insecure. You think, there must be something wrong with me. You wonder why they are not looking you? You fear and ask who else is there in their life?
And you look for another to blame for not having that 100% attention you crave. You look and become jealous of other people out there, those people or that person who you believe is taking your partner's attention away, but it's only a threat because you feel small and insecure inside.
When you are jealous you fail to notice is that it's got nothing to do with your partner, nor where they have put their attention. It has everything to do with you and where you have put your attention.
You have made your internal well-being entirely dependent on someone else.
It could be your partner has other commitments. Other interests.
Look at your own life. You have lots of other commitments. Some of us have young children, or grandchildren, aging parents, or sick relatives, animals, businesses, homes and gardens all of which are asking for our time and energy. We give our attention to them because we love them, because we have to, because life asks us to.
So in a relationship, it's completely unreasonable to demand to ask for someone to be only focused on you.
And it's entirely unreasonable to become jealous of them and who they are with and where they are putting their focus.
Of course that's not to say that in a relationship you put up with a partner who is never home, having affairs and unfaithful, if you have discussed and agreed that you are in a marriage or relationship where you are going to conduct yourselves in a certain way.
That's another issue if someone behaves differently than what you agreed.
However, even if someone is behaving other than what you agreed, you don't need to waste time and energy becoming jealous.
Jealousy eats away at the core of your well being. It's just not worth it. That's why the yogis were so strict in making sure we understood the problems of being jealous with naming it Aparigraha in one of the yamas.
And envy is the same, instead of being focused on possessing a person, "he is MINE" and no one else can have him, or "SHE needs to focus on ME, and no one else" which are the thoughts when you are jealous of whatever else takes their time or attention away from you, envy is focusing on an item or object that another person has.
Most of our material world is a world of suffering because of envy. Envy creates addictions, over shopping, rabid consumerism and mental insecurity which, like jealousy, can usually be rooted back to our family of origin.
You didn't get the toy you wanted. As a young child or adult, you thought that if you had the toy it would be a reward or symbol for being loved. For being recognized. You equated the toy with your self worth. So you became envious of the child, the sibling or friend who did get the toy. And I use the word "toy" as a metaphor. You could have been envious of anything. A new dress, item of jewelry, smartphone, computer game, sports equipment, trip abroad, car... you get the picture.
Envy is seen as a "deadly" sin. I'm not much for the concept of sin, unless you look at the root of the word, which means to miss the mark. And then it's interesting. Envy misses the mark of what exactly it is that you want. You don't really want the toy. You want to be loved. You want evidence that you are worthy.
Envy can also be apparent in the realm of education, career, vocational success or business acumen. To be envious is to think that someone has something that you don't have and can't have, and that you believe you would be happier, better, richer, healthier, fitter, thinner, more successful if you did have it. You believe that having that object will make you a better person, or make you feel better. So you are envious of those who do.
Most advertising preys on our envy. And the envy takes hold in our system and makes us feel empty because again (same as jealousy) we feel insecure, our self-worth is low, we have no self-love and so we have become dependent on an object or "thing" to fill us up and to make us feel complete and better about ourselves.
In our yoga practice, on our mats, I love teaching the class plans I teach from Kaiut yoga or Yoga Mais and I generally do not show my student how I do the sequences with my body, but with my voice. I've been practicing yoga for quite a number of years, and with a pretty regular practice. So obviously my body moves in a certain way. Yet, I don't teach by giving an image of my body, but rather the feelings that come from inside, from certain movements, and those feelings and sensations are available to everyone, I point my students to find those sensations for themselves. Even if they are a beginner and this is the very first time on a yoga a mat.
Using my voice to direct my students into their own inner world. I need to be sure that I don't deliberately give them anything to be jealous or envious of. In the background I am aware of the yamas and aparigraha. Absence of jealousy or envy. I try not to set them up to think they need to get anywhere, be envious of other students in the class, jealous of other body shapes, nothing other than deep inside their own being.
The more you can be in your own inner world, feeling inside your own body, resting in your own awareness, and finding love, comfort and solace within yourself, the less likely you are to want to be someone else, control someone else, be jealous of someone else or envious of what someone else has.
Although I do make videos showing all the variations of a pose and modifications of how to do a sequence, I'm very aware when this happens of what my objective is. Not to create envy or jealousy about my body or my flexibility, but rather to show all the possibilities and modifications that are available to everybody - where ever they are in their practice. I'm demonstrating various sequences, and different approaches to sequences for different body types, so that once the alignments and adjustments are shown, the images from the video can be discarded and the student's inner journey can continue.
Yoga is a journey to show everyone their own way inside.
Even if there is very little physical movement. Even if there is a lot of restriction. Expansion is always possible to find freedom from jealousy, from envy, to be free to love this precious moment.
Every time you practice, you are practicing self love, you are strengthening your inner sense of well-being and resilience. So jealousy and envy start to be foreign concepts, you understand why the yogis ask us to be aware and vigilant, so that you don't fall into the trap of jealous thinking or envious thinking. Absence of envy and jealousy leaves you free to meet yourself where you are now. Not expecting yourself to be any different. Loving yourself so you are not expecting anyone else to love you, and not needing anyone else to love you; that just leaves you to love you.
Kathy White Yoga teaches classes LIVE online and all her teaching is also available as recordings in her membership site also available click here for more details of her online offerings