What is Asteya?
What is Asteya?
This post is the third in a series of articles exploring the yamas and niyamas, the moral principles and qualities that form part of the philosophy of a “yogic” lifestyle. Stay tuned to our blog over the next few months to learn about each of the 10 concepts and how to integrate them into your yoga practice and daily life.
Yamas are ethical practices that help us create a pure, resilient, healthy lifestyle. The first yama is Ahimsa; the second is Satya; and the third is Asteya, or “non-stealing.” “Thou shalt not steal” is a common enough principle (and law), but like the other yamas, there is a bit more depth to the concept.
Only take what is freely offered
Asteya does not only refer to physical items; “non-stealing” also means not taking energy, time, or effort that is not freely offered. If you examine your everyday interactions, how might your relationships with the people around you change if you never took time or energy from someone else that was not freely offered? How would that change your work relationships or your home life?
The principle of Asteya not only means “non-stealing” as in “don’t take things that belong to others,” but it also applies to not wanting to steal. When would we want to steal? Jealousy and envy are based in a desire to have what someone else has; practicing Asteya means letting go of those emotions as much as possible and practicing gratitude for what we do have.
In our social media world, our social feeds are almost entirely curated to only show the best moments of our days; you don’t often see tears, anger, or unhappiness. The envy that we can feel for a life that we see as always happy comes from insecurity around our own ability to create abundance. Think about it for a second: when you are truly happy and comfortable with your own life, do others’ successes and happiness make you feel jealous? How about when you’re feeling insecure, unhappy, or anxious? The happiness of others can trigger envy or jealousy when you doubt your own ability to experience those kinds of moments again.
Asteya in the world
There are also broader aspects to Asteya. When we mindlessly consume natural resources, we are stealing from the earth and from future generations. When we appropriate the ideas or cultural symbols of others without regard or respect, it is also stealing. Considering the impact of our actions can be a good way to practice Asteya while also integrating Ahimsa (non-harming) into our lives.
Practicing Asteya for yourself
Asteya doesn’t only relate to your relationships with others; you can also practice Asteya for yourself. Whenever behaviour is motivated by your own insecurity, it is an opportunity to practice Asteya. Often, this internal practice means learning and knowing that you have enough – enough stuff, enough space, enough strength, enough love. Instead of looking for people and things to make you happy, know that you are and have enough right now.
Another way to practice Asteya is to ask yourself, do you give yourself enough time? When you rush around and show up late to appointments in your daily life, you rob yourself of time and often, others as well.
Do you conceal parts of yourself to conform to what someone else wants of you? If you deny parts of yourself, you rob yourself and others of knowing and appreciating who you really are. Your individual personality is a boon to the world, and denying the traits that make you, you is not practicing Asteya.
Finally, are you comfortable saying “no”? Saying yes to projects or relationships you don’t want to take on robs you of your time, so practicing Asteya means setting healthy boundaries for your own time and energy as well as respecting the boundaries of others.
Asteya in your yoga practice
Asteya on your mat means settling into the practice and practicing focus. Can you move through a practice without rushing? Can you allow yourself to spend the full amount of time in each pose without “stealing” off to the next pose ahead of the teacher?
Can you avoid comparing yourself to other students or the teacher? Instead, try to experience the feeling of each pose in your body. Every body is different and will create a slightly different shape of a pose; the beauty of a yoga practice is that even in the same body, your practice will look and feel different every day. Spending your class comparing yourself to others is stealing yoga time – experience time – away from yourself.
Lastly, when you show up to yoga class, practicing Asteya means not stealing the peace of others, particularly in a sacred space like the yoga room. Entering quietly and maintaining the peace of the room allows the others that are sharing the space to find the same peace and quiet that you are looking for.
As always, when you have questions, please bring them to your teachers! They’re always willing to help. Also, stay tuned for our next instalment of this series!