This time our resident yoga bear is showing us how to achieve the creative ability to fulfil our own needs without having to steal from others. Learn how to practise asteya.
We’ve been delving deeper into the first of Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga, the ‘yamas’. Read a short note on each of the five yama’s here. So far, we’ve explored the first two yamas ‘ahimsa’ and ‘satya’. Today, let’s take a look at ‘asteya’ or ‘non-stealing’.
The third of Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga, Asteya can be directly translated to ‘not-stealing’.
However, as with most yoga-based philosophies there are many layers to the concept beyond the literal and physical ‘taking of something that does not belong to you’.
Asteya not only refers to the non-stealing of physical items but also the intangible such as time, attention, information, energy or freedom.
You may not be a thief in the eye-mask, stripy top, ‘bag of loot’ kind of way but there are many small but possibly significant ways in which we can steal from others and ourselves if we think about it.
Have you ever been late for an appointment or meeting?
Is it ok to expect others to wait for you? Is your time more important than theirs?
Often, this behaviour stems from feeling like something is missing, not having enough, jealousy, feeling like everyone else has what we want. Why is that?
If we believe that we have the creative ability to fulfil our own needs without having to steal from others, we are practicing asteya.
Asteya on the Mat
Look at your relationship with time. Are you always running late? Arriving places a little rushed and flustered. By the time you’ve settled down and caught up with yourself, you may have missed the opportunity to enjoy why you were there in the first place.
Getting to a yoga class, why not leave wherever you are 10 minutes earlier? Give yourself some time to stroll, cycle or drive without rushing. Maybe get there early and give yourself some time to relax before the class starts so that you can be present and experience the full benefit of the yoga class.
It’s possible to steal from ourselves if you think about it.
On the subject of arriving late - when you get to the class or studio, how do you arrive? If you come crashing in, flapping your mat down on the floor, throwing your bag down, kicking your shoes aside, how do you think that affects others in the class?
Is it fair to steal their focus and that of the teacher who is bringing them through a sequence or meditation? Or coming early and chatting or whispering loudly in the studio when others may see that as their only time to sit or lie in peace before their class begins. Considering how you want the class to benefit you as well as others is crucial to bringing asteya into your life.
When practicing yoga in a class with others do you ever find you push yourself beyond your own capabilities? Why is that? For fear you’re not good enough? If the teacher offers the option to go through one more vinyasa or stay in downward facing dog, do you get that that’s an invitation?
It could be a Monday evening after an incredibly hectic weekend and workday. Why feel the need to push yourself through that last vinyasa if your body is saying don’t? It doesn’t impress anyone really and you are stealing from yourself the opportunity to pause, reflect, rest before finishing the class. It’s ok to push a little past your edge but it’s also ok to not depending on how you’re feeling.
Do you sometimes find that you’re comparing yourself to others in the class? Or comparing yourself to a previous version of you?
You know, the ‘you’ when you didn’t have a dodgy ankle or an extra few pounds around the middle.
The ‘you’ where you may have been younger, fitter, stronger, more flexible.
Getting caught up in a negative spiral of how ‘good’ you used to be or how ‘good’ that other person in the class is, robs you of the enjoyment of where you are right now. It robs you of absorbing the benefits of the class right then and there. Our bodies are unique.
Every single body is different and every single day is different so there’s no point in comparison. This effort is futile. Just enjoy where you are right now and do each pose with discernment and in a way that feels right for you. Try to be completely ‘present’ in each pose.
It’s completely normal for the mind to wander but we can all practice awareness throughout a yoga class but recognising when our mind has drifted, acknowledging that and bring the attention back to the physical body and the breath.
Asteya off the Mat
The same principle of arriving on time to wherever you need to be applies both on and off the yoga mat.
Giving yourself plenty of time so that you’re not rushed and flustered means you are in the best mindset to truly enjoy whatever it is that you’re doing rather than simply ticking one more thing off the list.
It also means that, if you are meeting someone, you deem their time equally as important as yours and you are not stealing from their day.
Have you ever heard of the phrase – ‘energy vampire’?
We have all come across one at some point in our lives I’m sure. We have all possibly been one at some point in our lives. That person who is so caught up in a little bubble of negativity that every time you see them, they spring into a rant.
You sympathise with them at first. Try to empathise but, pretty soon, you just can’t deal with it anymore and start trying to avoid interaction with this person. Nothing you say can help them. They just want to vent. The result? They walk away feeling temporarily free of their burdens.
Perhaps even thanking you for the ‘chat’ when all you did what nod and smile. Meanwhile you skulk away, completely drained, loaded down with their negativity and looking for the closest rock to crawl under and hide. Just for a little bit. These people are ‘energy vampires’, my friends!
Sucking the life out of you for their own benefits. Completely unaware of the effect this negativity has on you and the people around them. They’re not doing it on purpose. They just don’t see a way out of their problem but… that’s not your problem.
It’s ok to vent with a close friend now and then and vice versa but, be mindful of the negative impact on your energy.
Try to make sure that this is not your only type of interaction with that close friend. Make sure to have a balanced friendship. In essence, be mindful not to be this person and … BEWARE of these people! Tell them to join a yoga class!
An underlying niggling that you feel incomplete or you’re missing something in your life can lead to cramming your days, weeks, months with activities. Almost becoming addicted to ‘doing’ to fill that gap. Hoarding can be another symptom.
Mindlessly buying unnecessary items. Holding on to things that no longer serve a purpose in your life. You may be stealing the opportunity for someone else to benefit from these things? You may be stealing yourself of the space to live clutter free.
Being present and truly aware of each moment is crucial to the practice of asteya.
Being unaware of what is going on around you because your mind is elsewhere deprives you of experiencing life in the ‘now’. It also means you are not aware of how your actions may be affecting others around you.
It’s completely normal for the mind to wander or become preoccupied with memories or planning but it is important to not let life pass you by.
You will begin to find people reacting to you differently the more you practice awareness, generosity, kindness and consideration to yourself and others. Yoga and meditation can help breed awareness of any thoughts and or emotions at any given moment. Try it!