Asteya is one of the yamas, or moral observances, of yoga. Yamas are the ethical guidelines that shape how we interact with the world, and of course, with ourselves. It translates to “non-stealing” and like everything within yoga, has many layers of depth and meaning.
We can apply the principle of asteya to our lives in many ways. In an obvious sense, we shouldn’t steal or shoplift. Most of us know this behavior will present many unwanted consequences in our lives and so we have no desire to do it. But there are also less abstract aspects of stealing that we participate in without awareness. Time and energy are two examples that we can look at. I check in with myself frequently – by not allotting enough time am I making someone wait – stealing their time? Am I stealing my own time by scrolling through Instagram when I could be studying? As a teacher, I practice asteya by honoring the start and end times of my classes or sessions. I strive to respect the valuable time of others (and myself), though I truthfully struggle with this quite a bit.
Asteya also presents itself on and off the mat in the experiences we want to achieve before we’re ready to achieve them. Let’s look at a big pose a lot of yogis strive to achieve: handstand. This pose has been a goal of mine for a long time and throughout the years I’ve felt like I was so, so close. I’ve even said I had it, though I’m still only at the point of hovering for a few seconds only while comfortably close to a wall for support. As I have gained more strength and awareness of my body, I have come to see that the journey to this pose is the real yoga. I am a witness to my own growth and rushing the achievement of the pose is ultimately stealing from the path my present self is on.When I can hover in handstand in the middle of the room I will have earned it through practice, honesty, and awareness.
This concept has been pretty revolutionary for me and has allowed me to see other instances I may be “stealing” from my present life for the life I think I want. The practice of asteya asks us to be impeccable with our word and to hold ourselves to a higher standard. It asks us to commit to the practice of being present and patient. This principle can be applied in so many ways on and off of the mat – ultimately it’s about being honest with ourselves with where we are at. It’s the journey up the mountain to see the sunset that makes the view so sweet. We have earned it!
In what ways are you taking time, energy, awareness or engagement from yourself or others? How can you slow things down and practice asteya? Remember, though, the practice doesn’t ask you to be perfect – it asks you to be aware.
Hope Valley Hill – Helios
Nevergreen – Emancipator
Namaste (Instrumental) – Beastie Boys
Place To Be – Nick Drake
Myth – Beach House
Will Do – TV On The Radio
Spoken – Hidden Orchestra
Paper Aeroplane – Angus, Julia Stone
Sweetest Kill – Broken Social Scene
Paper Trails – Darkside
Salt Water Sound – Zero 7
Big Boy – Balam Acab
Two Trains – Yo La Tengo
Green Arrow – Yo La Tengo
Window – The Album Leaf