Asteya, non-stealing, is one of the five yoga restraints, or Yamas, according to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. You can see why it’s easy to look this one over. It seems pretty obvious; don’t take what’s not yours. But Asteya can be looked at in a different way, too.
Have you ever thought about what is holding you back? Maybe you struggle with self-image, contentment, or being consistent. Let’s take consistency, for example. Say you struggle with maintaining a consistent yoga practice. You go for a few times a week for one month, then put it off the next. This lack of consistency is robbing you of your ability to reach your goals and advance in your practice. Asteya can also mean not hoarding materials that you don’t need, mindlessly consuming natural resources, coveting other people’s possessions, or appropriating other people’s ideas.
“I’m not good enough….”
The need to steal essentially arises because of a lack of faith in ourselves to be able to create what we need by ourselves. The moment we feel a sense of ‘lack’ in life – desire, want and greed arises. We begin to look for something to fill that ‘empty’ sensation, and often feel as though everyone else has what we want.
Lack, insecurity, wanting, feeling ‘incomplete’ …. Essentially it all boils down to feeling like there’s something missing. The word yoga means ‘to yoke’, ‘unite’, ‘connect’, or essentially to become ‘whole’, so by practicing each aspect of Yoga on and off the mat, we can move further towards feeling as though we already have enough, and we already are enough within ourselves.
O N . T H E . M A T
Do you push yourself beyond healthy boundaries in your practice because you’re afraid of not being good enough? Even subconsciously, there’s usually a little part of us that starts out with the best of intentions, but then about half-way through class, begins to tempt us towards practicing for the way a posture looks, instead of how it feels.
When we continually focus on pushing ourselves just a little too far over that ‘edge’ in order to attain a posture, we not only rob ourselves of a sustainable and natural practice, but we rob ourselves of being able to be present with the posture and with ourselves for exactly the way things are in that moment.
If we allow ourselves to be open and accepting to exactly how our practice is at that moment on the mat, we never need to feel as though we’re losing out if some asanas are a little out of reach at the moment. It is never the postures we are able to do that define our practice, but the amount of awareness we bring to them….
S O M E O N E . E L S E
We all know those days when it just seems like we haven’t stopped, everything has been done in a rush, and then we’re late to our favourite yoga class. The moment you enter the room, you enter a sacred space, it may be the only place some people are able to find peace.
Lugging in bags of shopping, throwing the mat down and kicking off our shoes may be the fastest way of getting into class, but when we disturb the peace upon entering the room, we really do steal anyone else’s chance of fully being with themselves. Maybe next time leave your possessions and phone away from you, or even better.. turn your phone off!
H O A R D I N G!
When we buy more than we need, we’re often subconsciously looking to ‘fill a gap’ that we feel is missing in life. Material possessions obviously can’t replace whatever it is our soul really needs, but time and time again we temporarily satisfy ourselves by buying yet more ‘stuff’ we don’t need. Remember Gandhi’s words; ‘mankind’s greed and craving for artificial needs is also stealing’; it is these artificial needs which create the piles of stuff around us. And yet the more material things we have around us, often the more material things we feel we need.
As Sivananda said ‘desire and want’, is what causes us to go out of our way to obtain something. Often, the things we buy and don’t need, could be appreciated by someone else, but by needlessly taking them for ourselves, we rob others of the chance to have what they do need.
Take a look at the amount of possessions you own – could someone else better benefit from them? Do you really need 23 pairs of shoes and eight bags? Does your weekly grocery bill include items you often throw away without eating?
When we begin to let go of what we don’t need, we make space for the universe to provide us with what we do need – be it a physical possession, an experience, or simply a sense of wellbeing.
L I V E .
In each moment, we have the opportunity to experience a vast array of emotions and sensations – yet we tend to cling only to those which seem pleasant and enjoyable. This aspect of clinging a little too tightly to pleasurable experiences is known as ‘raga’, and although the experience itself may be one of joy of happiness, the action of trying to hold onto it out of desire ultimately creates more suffering or ‘dukha’.
The opposite of this is ‘dvesa’, which translates as ‘aversion’, often to pain or suffering – basically that feeling we get when we try really hard not to feel a painful physical or emotional feeling when it arises. Continually running around in circles after experiences which bring us only pleasure keeps us locked in a cycle of wanting and desiring, which – if we think about it – never really ends….
Even when we feel content, there’s always that small part of us that worries about what might happen if we lose this feeling / person / possession / experience. By attempting to feel only the ‘good’, we ignore the other half of life completely.
By going into the dark places we fear of treading the most, the lighter experiences shine even brighter, and we’re made whole by allowing ourselves to experience every emotion there is to offer. There doesn’t have to be ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in every situation, there simply just ‘is’, and if we allow ourselves to step into the parts we fear a little, we give ourselves the opportunity to fully experience life in that very moment.
P R A C T I C E .
‘Abundance’ means to have a large amount of something – so much so that there is no need for anything else. Practicing knowing that we have enough, and we are enough, is the key to wanting and desiring less, and therefore feeling a lot more whole and happy within ourselves.
Asteya asks that we take only what is offered and use only what we need.