“Non-attachment is self-mastery; it is freedom from desire for what is seen or heard.” Although this is one of the first yoga sutras, I chose to approach it because I found that it has made the biggest impact in my life – both on and off my mat. I find it so relevant coming from a place of human being. So often I used to (and sometimes still do) catch myself wanting what I do not actually need. Sometimes this can be superficial items such as new clothing, gadgets or means of entertainment. Besides the craving for objects, I have found it quite enlightening in terms of personal goals, social status and the desire to reach further and try harder. Our society dictates that there is always something to do, obtain or fix. Lastly, this sutra has been ultimately refreshing and validating simply within my practice spiritually and on my mat. I often found the desire to go further than necessary, always thinking there were perfect poses (as seen on Yoga Journal), judging my “failures” on the mat due to injury and thinking my mind had to be perfectly still for meditation. I lacked certain levels of acceptance (as well as compassion) and was always grasping at that which I did not have control over, as well as having been ignorant to the fact that a lot of these desires were imaginary; merely filling a void where I was less Self-aware.
Personally, non-attachment does not mean leading a life of indifference or apathy. It simply means letting go, accepting the results of every action and setting our goals to be the journey instead of the destination. I feel that the key to this oftentimes is to stay present in order to fully appreciate the journey on our way to the goal. As a Westerner, this can be quite a challenging concept, as it is so engrained in us that social status, being the best and having the best are so crucial in life. I love this sutra because it states the exact opposite of what is embedded in our culture which, when practiced regularly, just feels so right. Non-attachment does not come easily, but is attainable when there is willingness and acceptance to be able to discriminate a bit and to let it all go and simply be.
In life, this sutra impacted the way I gauge my decision-making and has allowed me to let go of a lot. I now find myself inquiring within as to why I feel that I “need” something. Internal inquiry as to why I “need” it, how the object will serve me and if it plays any significant or crucial role in my life. Oftentimes, the object I so desire gets left behind now as it does not serve a true purpose and will not make a real impact on my happiness, spiritual life, yoga practice or anything important to me to that effect.
On the social side of this sutra, I am learning to let go of expectations that I have to “be something”, that I have to try hard instead of try true and that I must have a bunch of goals or deadlines just so I sound as though I have an important social status. Again, here I come back to allowing my goals to always be the journey; always keeping the destination in mind, but just accepting whatever comes up and abandoning the sense of attaching to any preconceived notion of what should be. Granted, as all human beings do, I slip occasionally only to find myself aiming for the destination, but remind myself of one of my favourite lines from this particular sutra, “The practice of non-attachment gives value and significance to even the most ordinary incidents of the dullest day.” This quote in itself has allowed me so often to keep present and to keep from attaching to that which does not serve me. As such, I have it written in several places that I frequent – almost as a daily affirmation to remind me to let go, that I am perfect as I am, I am exactly where I should be, that there is nothing to change and nothing to fix in this moment.
This leads me into my yoga practice as well as my spiritual practice. The practice of non-attachment has impacted both my yoga and spiritual practice tremendously! I have learned to detach from certain expectations I used to set for myself on my yoga mat. I would push to go deeper into the pose, sacrifice alignment because I thought that was where I was supposed to be and I would find myself frustrated if I fell out or was unable to go as far as I had previously. Now, instead of judging or setting end-game goals on the mat, I have learned to let go and to practice with grace; always keeping present, honouring my body, being with my breath and accepting wherever and however I find myself on my mat. I no longer feel as though meditation is unsuccessful if my mind is busy. I am learning to put an imaginary pane of glass between my thoughts and myself; instead of attaching to my thoughts and running with them, this imagery has allowed me to be the observer – watching each thought go by and simply let it be just as it is.
This sutra of non-attachment does and likely will always resonate with me, as I feel it does pair closely with acceptance which I find quite significant in my practice and in life. Doing my best to let go of my desire for objects and social status have and will (I am sure) continue to serve me well and have its moments of difficulty. Lastly, I no longer have expectations of what my yoga practice or meditation should be, which I have found extremely freeing. Ultimately, there is always “work” to do in any practice, but I love the path this sutra has set me on so I will continue to fly with it.
 Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood, How to Know God, Southern California, Vedanta, 2007, I, 15, p.26
 Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood, How to Know God, Southern California, Vedanta, 2007, I, 15, p.29