Asteya : non-stealing in the practice of yoga

This post is a follow up of my recent overviews of ahimsa (non-violence, full post here) and satya (truthfulness, full article here). Asteya is one of the 5 yamas of Patanjali, which give us a set of universal qualities that yogis must adopt in order to evolve in their practice.

What does asteya mean ?

Asteya means non-stealing. On the surface it seems evident : of course everyone knows that stealing is bad. But as usual with the yamas, it would be a mistake to not go beyond the obvious. There are many ways beyond the physical act of stealing which need to be taken into consideration and practiced at all time by yogis in order to live by asteya.

Asteya and jealousy

More than just non-stealing, asteya is about not wanting what others have, are or can, that we personnally do not have, are not or cannot. In other words, it is about getting rid of the feelings of envy and jealousy.

The root of jealousy and envy lies into greed, in not being contempt with what we have. In a society built around competition, from a young age we are tought to constently compare ourselves to others and it is hard to get out of this state of mind. But with a little effort and practice, we quickly come to realize that there is another way. We do not have to be envious or jealous, instead we can choose to be happy for others and their good fortune.

How does asteya manifest in our life ?

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

In a very consumerist society, we tend to strive for an accumulation of wealth and material possessions and this at high costs for our planet and environment. We seem to always be wanting more, but what for ? Is this really going to bring us more happiness ?

It is important to realize that your material possessions will never truly make you a better person, wether they are fair trade, vegan, conscious… if they have no purpose other than self-gratification, then they should be avoided.

We are born naked and we will die naked. We need to let go of the unnecessary and be contempt with what we truly are. The more we accumulate things, the less we have room to see what truly matters.

How does asteya manifest in our yoga practice?

Once again, because of the way we tend to picture life as a giant competition, we might sometimes forget the purpose of our yoga practice. We might be scared of not being “good enough” and thus overdoing it past the bounderies of our physical abilities. By doing so, we not only put ourself at risk of physical injuries, but we lose track as well with what yoga is about.

When we do yoga, we don’t just want to achieve a great posture to post a picture on Instagram, we begin instead a very meaningful journey of introspection and self-discovery. We are not on our mat to compete with anyone and be the best at yoga, we are there to witness what is there to see, where we are at on our journey and accept it.

Practicing abundance

A good way to practice asteya is through abundance. Instead of focusing on what we lack of, what we miss, we must learn to be content with what we are. We need to be grateful for the abundance of life. There are a couple of excercises that you can practice in order to feel the joy of abundance

You can take the time to write down everyday what you are grateful for. Just take a few minutes to witness what is there. Wether it is your health, your friends, a book that you have read, a place where you have been… you will quickly notice that you have plenty of things to be grateful for. If you practice this regularly, there will be no more space in you for jealousy.

Another exercise which I really enjoy is to take a stroll in the nature and notice its abundance. How many leaves are on a tree ? How much water is in a lake ? How many birds are in the sky ? How much strength is there in the wind ? How many drops of rain on a rainy day ? When you start to look at nature with open eyes, heart and mind, you experience a strong feeling of abundance and subsequently you realize how nature nutures us.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

You can as well simply practice abundance at home in your meditation. A simply mantra such as “i am” repeated over and over again, anchors within you the simple reality of your being. You do not have things in abundance, you ARE an endless source of abundance and being you is enough to achieve happiness. And this is when you come to this realization that you can embody the meaning of asteya.

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