Asteya: non-stealing (giving)

Where does the desire to steal come from? Yoga suggests that it is born of a feeling of not having enough.

When we look at the ‘eight limbs of Raja Yoga’; a system outlined by the Sage Patanjali some two thousand years ago, this question is explored through the principle of asteya. Asteya is the third ‘yama’ or ethical principle the yogi abides by in his quest to live a good life.

What is asteya?

Asteya means ‘non-stealing’, however, non-stealing does not just mean the absence of theft of material things; it also speaks to our commitment not to steal other people’s time and energy, not to steal other people’s ideas, not to take more than our fair share, and not to deny ourselves or others the truth (because in doing so we rob ourselves and others of the guts of our experience).

Thus, asteya grows out of respect and abundance, whereas stealing, in all its forms arises from a feeling of lack. Often, we focus on material acquisition in order to, momentarily, mask this feeling of lack. But what if, instead, we tried to cultivate its opposite; gratitude, and watch as the texture of our life changes?

Stealing, be it stealing of energy, ideas or ‘stuff’, comes from a place of separateness.It is only through separateness that ‘mine’ and ‘yours’ can exist. By cultivating a sense of connection instead (after all, ‘yoga’ is a word that means to yoke or bind) we begin to feel that we have enough; that we are enough.

When we approach our yoga practice from a place of lack we rob ourselves of a true experience of the present moment. We focus on some imagined point in the future where we have ‘achieved’ a pose or a level of practice that is not accessible to us today. And so we miss this moment, this experience and all of its gifts and lessons. We forget that the postures are not what define our practice, rather, awareness is.

Off the mat, our tendency to rush, rush, rush has the same effect. It turns our lives into an unconscious stream of future or past-oriented thought and so we never participate directly in the present. But think; each and every ‘present moment’ is a moment we’ll never get back.

Thus, exploring asteya means letting go of desire – desire for the latest gadget, desire for praise, desire for things to be other than they are – as it is only through desire for things to be other than they are that we miss the gifts of the present.

Related Post: Satya – truthfulness | Yoga Teacher Training

Shades of Yoga is a yoga teacher training company, running year-round yoga teacher training programs in Bali and Costa Rica.