In this article I offer practical tools and exercises to practice the third Yama: Asteya, on and off your mat.
What are Yamas?
As we saw in the last article on the eight limbs of Yoga; in the traditional Yoga system the first aspect of practice is called Yama or the practice of relationship, which underscores the importance of connection to others as being integral to all expressions of Yoga. Yamas are ethical practices that guide us towards healthy, fulfilled relationship with others and in turn, ourselves.
The five yamas:
Ahiṃsā - non-violence, respect for life, kindness
Satya - truthfulness
Asteya - honesty, integrity
Brahmacharya - non-excess, moderation
Aparigraha - non-possessiveness
Ghandi expanded beyond the physical act of stealing – importantly – that ‘mankind’s greed and craving for artificial needs are also stealing’. Again in this yama, the word asteya can be interpreted in different ways other than not stealing your friend's candies; non-stealing from the future, non-clinging to things or people, non-stealing from ourselves, others or the Earth.
Asteya roots in the feeling of 'I'm not enough' or 'I don't have enough'. It is the need to fill an emptiness within because we lack the faith in ourselves to be able to create what we need by ourselves, so we start to go out and look for those things. The feeling of being loved, accepted and approved by the outside world is a very strong one, our Yoga practice teaches us that in fact, we are beings of love and all we look for outside can and should be found inside first.
How does Asteya manifest in our day-to-day?
- I see a picture I like on someone's Instagram feed, as much as I would love to steal it for my own feed, I decide not to and remember that authenticity is what attracts love (authenticity being rooted in satya, truth),
- I find someone's unlimited travel pass on the floor, I decide to return it to the closest station instead of using it,
- I notice that I am starting to get into the bad habit of looking at my phone too much, I decide to restrict myself on the amount of time I spend on it (non-clinging).
Let me offer other ways we can practice Asteya:
- I go to a strong Yoga class and although there are experienced yogis around me getting into all the shapes, I decide to do only what feels good to me because clinging to my need to show off will not serve me,
- Although I am late to a Yoga class, I decide to arrive peacefully not to steal from the peace of the others who have already started, instead of closing the door loudly, taking my shoes off in a hurry and throwing them,
- I decide to work on loving and accepting myself unconditionally (through meditation, therapy, etc) rather than expecting others to fulfill me, making our connection in-authentic and shallow,
- I work on being whole-heartedly dedicated to the present moment and what it brings up, allowing myself to feel the full array of emotions instead of clinging to the positive ones only.
In summary, asteya is the practice of feeling whole and abundant. We can do that by recognising our true nature through sitting and reflection. Not only is this essential for our own well-being and thriving but it is also important for others and the planet.
The more we feel miserable and empty inside the more we will steal from other's time, energy and resources.
At a much larger scale, a powerful example of this is capitalism and the way big corporations steal from our people's and the planet's resources, leaving us with people and a planet that is depleted of all energy.