The yamas, which can be translated as "moral precepts," make up the first of yoga's eight limbs and promote peaceful interactions with others. The "non-stealing" yama, asteya, means exactly that.
Most of us aren't actual thieves, but upon closer inspection, we may discover some significant but subtle ways in which we steal from ourselves during our yoga sessions.
To counteract the idea that we don't have enough, or that we're missing out on something, the word asteya could be defined to include a focus on gratitude and plenty. Learn more about these aspects of your practise through the lens of asteya, and you'll be able to foster stronger ties to them.
What is Asteya Yama? Non-Stealing
Non-stealing, or asteya in Sanskrit, is considered a sacred virtue in the religions of Hinduism and Jainism.
Maharishi Patanjali, the author of the Yoga Sutras, a classic text on yoga philosophy, incorporated the concept of asteya into his writings by way of the Eight Limbs of Yoga. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali were meant to serve as guidelines for people to follow in order to boost their health and happiness in and out of yoga class.
The Third Yoga Principle is Asteya
At the outset, keep in mind that Asteya is just one of Patanjali's eight limbs of yoga, and one of the five Yamas (or ethical principles). The five yamas are: ahimsa (nonviolence), satya (honesty), asteya (nonstealing), brahmacharya (self-control over impulses to excess), and aparigraha (sharing rather than hoarding) (non-coveting). You can use each Yama in isolation to improve your physical practise, but the full impact of adhering to all five Yamas over the course of your life is what matters most.
It's important to allow yourself plenty of time before, during, and after your yoga practise to focus on avoiding theft. In the context of a group yoga class, for instance, arriving late (and causing the associated chaos) is a form of theft against one's own time and the time and calm of one's instructor and fellow students.
On the yoga mat, it's easy to get sidetracked by the impressive flexibility of some classmates or the effortless grace with which another student moves from pose to pose while keeping her eyes closed. It's awe-inspiring, and it can be a little scary.
The realisation of this fact may cause feelings of jealousy and self-doubt. To achieve an unrealistic ideal of how you should look in a pose, your insecurities may lead you to push yourself beyond your physical limits.
Overextending yourself in pursuit of perfection is counterproductive because it can lead to injury and unnecessary suffering. Worrying about what other people are doing takes your focus off of the present moment and the beautiful complexity of your own body, robbing you of your own inner peace and the pleasure you could be getting from the practise.
The truth is that every person is different, and consequently, their appearance in poses will vary. Be kind to yourself by establishing reasonable mental limits and going at your own pace in asana practise (and in life).
Reasons to Be Non-Violent Both On and Off the Yoga Mat
As you can see, the virtue of non-stealing is multifaceted, and it pays to be familiar with the various ways in which you can put it into practise. After all, mastering your yogic journey entails learning to bring harmony to every facet of your existence, and not stealing is a crucial component of that.
Positive Outcomes from Adopting an Attitude of Nonviolence
Intentionally cultivating asteya may enhance your internal and external environments, leading to a greater sense of well-being. Some examples:
A heightened sense of self-awareness. Being more self-aware means being able to recognise situations in which you may be tempted to steal.
Intensify Appreciation. Taking stock of your possessions can help you appreciate the many "blessings" in your life that may otherwise go unnoticed amidst the bustle of daily life.
Makes room for more (Mental and Physical). Having more of what you want in life is a matter of letting go of what you don't need (material possessions, limiting beliefs, etc.).
1) Take a hard look at how you currently view time.
Recall the last time you were in school. Did you take your time and enjoy the ride there? Was there enough time for you to take it easy before class?
A typical morning for many of us consists of leaving for class ten minutes later than planned, rushing through traffic, and possibly cursing when things don't go as planned.
You might be doing a lot but not really taking in any of it.
If this describes you frequently—if you're always in a hurry and never on time—you might be ticking things off your to-do list but not truly experiencing any of them.
Perhaps a sense of deficiency and scarcity lies beneath the surface. If I assume that I don't have enough time, I might try to cram as much as possible into each day or session of practise. Yet it is not the activity per se but the investment of one's undivided attention that creates value.
One could argue that we have a dependency on action. When it comes to quantity, more is definitely better. Asteya teaches us that we do not need more because there is plenty.
How to practice asteya on mat and in class:
Prepare for class by getting there early.
Try slowing down and doing less by saying no to that "one more vinyasa" invitation.
Can you move quickly without appearing to be in a rush or sneaking your way to the next pose, even if your class is a fast-paced flow?
2) Avoiding Disrupting Calm
Have you ever noticed that when you walk into a room late, stressed, or just in a bad mood, the room's energy and attention shifts to you?
You may get the impression that they were discussing you specifically, but in all likelihood, everyone in the room simply absorbed a great deal of whatever energy you brought with you. The peace of those around you can be disturbed by your internal or external state at times.
Some precautions are listed below to help avoid that:
Just take three deep breaths before you leave the house or go into any new situation.
If you want to approach the day with positive energy, it can help to set a goal of harmony.
3) Acknowledge instead of hiding
Wabi-sabi is a Japanese aesthetic theory that emphasises the value of transience and imperfection. The pressure many of us put on ourselves to conform to artificial and unreachable ideals of beauty and social standing prevents us from appreciating our individuality. This goes against the principle of asteya.
We lose sight of the truth and the splendour of who we are when we try to hide, camouflage, or transform into what we think other people want. As a result, we develop multiple identities, with our value increasingly tied to superficial factors like appearance and weight.
In addition to preventing others from seeing our true selves, this kind of masking strips us of our humanity and exposes our insecurities.
Through the practise of Asteya, we are reminded to embrace our unique qualities and to treat one another with kindness and acceptance regardless of our differences.
Asteya is a reminder to embrace and celebrate our differences and to approach each other with kindness and openness. With this as a foundation, we can build meaningful relationships with one another.
Aspects to keep an eye out for on the mat include:
Imagine each student in the room to be a different kind of fruit and use that as a comparison to the others around you. The fact that a banana doesn't resemble a grape isn't something you'd question. We all look different in the poses because of our individual anatomy and life experiences. We miss out on what's happening for ourselves when we're preoccupied with how others perceive us.
As opposed to forcing yourself into a universal ideal, try following alignment cues to find a position in which your body feels most alive and liberated. Each one of us has a one-of-a-kind skeletal structure. The truth is that there is no universally flattering yoga pose. Yoga practitioners are encouraged to "make the pose fit your body, not your body fit the pose." Exactly how does striking the "right" pose serve to hide your true emotions?
4) Doing Without Memories
More than anything else, this is about challenging yourself. Attempting something that (even slightly) challenges you can lead to new insights, experiences, relationships, and joy.
Here are some suggestions for expanding your horizons:
Take a different route to work, finish an item on your bucket list, or enrol in a brand-new course.
Whether it's at the office, the supermarket, or yoga class, strike up conversations with new people you see regularly.
Travel to an exotic locale with a close pal.
5) Embrace Prosperity
Theft is often motivated by the experience of scarcity. Incorporating an attitude of abundance into your daily life is a great way to appreciate the things you already have. If you examine your life and realise that you have all the necessities (including food, clothing, and shelter), perhaps you will feel less of a need to envy other people's material or intellectual achievements.
You could try out these routines:
Do yourself a favour and write down all the people and things you have to be thankful for.
When feelings of insufficiency arise, repeat the mantra "I am enough" or "I have enough."
6) JUST BE IN THE MOMENT
You'll miss out on a lot of life if you don't just "be where you are," as the Buddha put it.
You can't have the joy of being present in the moment if you aren't there. Most of the time, you'll be missing out on life if you do that.
To have thoughts, ideas, and conversations float through your head is perfectly normal. The brain operates in exactly this way.
It's challenging to gain control over a mind that's not under close observation, just as it would be challenging to stop a speeding train.
This is why the practise of yoga (which includes meditation) is so essential. Awareness training entails learning to pay attention to one's bodily sensations, mental processes, and emotional responses in any given moment. Instead of getting lost in the narrative of your thoughts and emotions, observe them as they come and go like clouds in the sky.
As the Buddhist principle of asteya suggests, the present moment is all you have.
How to practice on the mat:
In order to concentrate on the material and not be distracted by other students, it is best to either close your eyes or focus your gaze on inanimate objects (such as the wall, your yoga mat, or the floor) rather than on the people around you.
Repeatedly, throughout each asana and transition, focus on the sensations within your body and the quality of your breath. Be patient, calm, and consistent, just like you would when training a puppy.
When your thoughts wander, remember how good it feels to be back in the present. Feel what it's like to reconnect with your body and the happiness of appreciating the present moment as it is.
7) Adopt a Minimalistic Lifestyle
Possibly because we now live in an age of abundance, the minimalist lifestyle is gaining popularity around the world. Man's "greed and craving for artificial needs is also stealing," as Gandhi put it. Someone you know probably has a lot of stuff, whether it's clothes, shoes, jewellery, or something else entirely. However, are they actually necessary?
To practise minimalism as a way of life means to consciously pare down to the bare essentials. This may coincide with your daily habits, your thoughts, and the amount of time you spend on your phone or computer. Some practical minimalism guidelines are as follows.
Time out a few weeks to clean and organise each and every room in your house.
Reduce how much time you spend on your phone daily.
Say "no" more often to commitments that don't excite you (if you can; sometimes you have to do what you have to do!)
You should meditate first thing in the morning and last thing at night to help you focus and relax.
The principle of asteya encourages us to examine our own greed and avarice, while also calling our attention to the immaterial wealth we already possess. It pulls us into the now, with all its gloriously flawed reality. Asthaya, or non-harming, is a tenet of yoga that encourages practitioners to be kind and respectful to themselves, both on and off the mat. The end result is a more genuine and profound connection to life that can never be taken away.