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Asteya: Character Before Physicality

By Health, Values, Wellness, Yoga No Comments

Most of us who come to Rakta seek satisfaction from the physical aspects of yoga—the strength, flexibility, workout, and sweat. A lot of us are good at applying the spiritual or psychological teachings we learn in class to our personal lives. We often hear the phrase “on and off your mat,” which affirms that yoga is a tool for how we choose to live our lives.

Unless we’re in a teacher training, we generally don’t have time to talk about the yamas and niyamas. The yamas (the don’ts) and niyamas (the dos) are yoga’s ethical guidelines, a map to navigate our individual journeys. The spiritual teachings of yoga go much deeper than the physical practice does. But how much do we know about and focus on these teachings compared to the physical practice? And how aware are we of their daily application to our lifestyles, actions, habits, and relationships?

The five yamas are self-regulating behaviors that govern our interactions with other people and society. They include Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (non-excess), and Aparigraha (non-possessiveness, non-greed).

As we move into the season of giving from the intense and time-crunched month of gratitude (with Thanksgiving and the Self-Care Challenge), Asteya has been at the forefront of my mind. Stealing, when it’s less tangible than purposefully taking material items that don’t belong to us, can creep into our subconscious acts and everyday lives. One reason we constantly remind ourselves to live in the present moment is because when we aren’t fully present, we can fall prey to stealing other people’s time, energy, emotions, and resources.

When we don’t live in the present moment and experience life as it is (whether it’s good or bad), we’re stealing from ourselves and possibly others. To cultivate Asteya, we can act from a place of abundance (there’s enough to go around) instead of scarcity (I’m not good enough). When we remind ourselves that we have all we need, we’re less likely to look to other people, items, and activities to make us happy. Fulfillment comes from within.

So how do we practice Asteya in your everyday lives? We follow the Golden Rule, eliminate distractions, and avoid multitasking. Some other simple ways to practice non-stealing include:

  • Say no. If you don’t have the time or energy for a project, don’t commit to it.
  • Be resourceful. Think before you ask for help. Take personal responsibility to make things happen.
  • Be clear and concise. Make every word matter. Make it easy for people to understand and help you. Don’t steal other people’s time by not being precise, direct, or straightforward.
  • Be on time. Being late takes time, energy, and emotions away from others. Often times, it creates more work or chaos for others.
  • Choose silence. Speak only when your words are more important or powerful than silence.
  • Take only what you need. Let go of what you don’t need to make room for what you do need. Don’t steal from others by taking more than necessary.

For most of us, our goals in yoga have similarities, but truly they’re unique to each of us. Some of us come to class for the benefits to the physical body, some come to find peace or re-alignment, and some come for the community. But behind the asanas are higher teachings. Sometimes we simply feel and understand them, sometimes we can articulate and teach them, and sometimes we struggle just to identify them. The ultimate goals of Asteya are not to rob ourselves of life is it is and to benefit our community at large. Being aware of what we give and take can help us become better versions of who we are, inspire others to do the same, and create harmony through every interaction.