Many of us are drawn to yoga for its physical benefits and have derived much from them. However, at its root yoga is a practice that develops flexibility, strength, and resilience of the mind and consciousness. These past few months we’ve been exploring the eight-fold path outlined in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, and the guiding philosophy they present to help us make our way through the world more at peace with ourselves and those around us.
Yoga teacher Judith Hanson Lasater states, “We often learn the eight limbs one by one, but it’s helpful to remember that each step on the path is part of an integrated whole, more hologram than linear route. Once they are learned, the limbs are to be practiced and lived together.” The first two limbs are the yamas and niyamas, restraints and observances, attitudes that we can cultivate that lead us away from suffering and toward contentment.
This month at Breathe we will be focusing on the third yama, asteya – non-stealing. Just like the other yamas & niyamas, asteya means so much more than not physically taking something from someone else. 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. A big part of this journey through life is learning to value what we have. An integrated practice of asteya asks us to look at what we possess inwardly and outwardly, and make peace with these possessions. If it is not something that we need must we hold on to it? If it’s something that we desire, do we truly need it? If so, then what are the means of attaining it that are in alignment with being non-harming (ahimsa) and truthful (satya). This level of self-awareness requires courage to be honest and willing to look at our choices; and it’s important to do this with compassion. Always be kind through this process of self-discovery.
A sense of lack, and feelings that ‘we are not enough’ are at the root of stealing. The impulse to steal arises from a sense that we don’t or will not possess the means to create what we need by ourselves. When we feel that we are lacking, this is where desire, want, and greed arise. There is a perceived void, it feels like something is missing, and the emptiness can seem so real. The desire to fill the emptiness manifest and often we strive to do so with more stuff; material items, food, social engagements, the internet, but rarely with what we actually need. This is where our yoga practice can remind us that we are whole. Yoga brings the fragmented parts of ourself back together, into union, and we remember that we have enough, and we are enough.
In the yoga practice we may steal our own inner peace when we strive beyond what we are capable of in that moment. Do you ever find yourself pushing beyond healthy boundaries in your practice because you’re afraid of not being good enough? When we continually emphasize pushing ourselves just a little too far past our ‘edge’ in yoga, we are robbing ourselves of a sustainable and natural practice. Rather, if we allow ourselves to be open and accepting to exactly how our practice is at that moment, we never need to feel as though we’re missing out if some poses are a little out of reach at that time.
One other area of emphasis and an interesting wrinkle in the practice of asteya is with time. Although time is not something that we possess, it is something that is valuable to each of us. Unfortunately these days there are many ways to waste time, and not just our own. Applying the practice of asteya to our’s and other’s time is worth our effort.
We invite you to join us in bringing more awareness to the practice of non-stealing this month (and beyond). Here are a few ways to get started:
—Take a look at the number of possessions you own – could someone else better benefit from them?
Do you really need that many pairs of shoes or 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 well-being.
—Allow yourself to be open and accepting in your yoga practice at each moment. We never need to feel as though we’re not enough if some poses are a little out of reach. Remember it’s not about how far you go, but how you go.
—Show up on time. Model punctuality and inspire others to do the same.
—Avoid stealing your own time. Are you wasting time surfing the net, scrolling on your phone, when you could be doing something that you truly value? Choose the activities that are fulfilling and feed your soul versus activities that are simply mindless and filling your time with inane redundancy.
For continued reading on how to practice asteya check out this article on Yoga International.
It’s been said that “all the wealth of the world will be drawn to one who has mastered the practice and discipline of Asteya.