The Yamas: Asteya

By Sydney Humphrey

Asteya is one of the 5 yamas, ethical or moral disciplines, in traditional yoga philosophy. The word “asteya” is derived from Sanskrit and can be translated as “non-stealing” or “non-taking.” Another way to think of the yamas is: that which we are restraining from, and in this case it is the discipline of restraining from stealing.

Asteya is not only about refraining from physically stealing or taking what does not belong to you, but also encompasses a broader sense of ethical behavior and respect for others. Practicing this yogic restraint involves not coveting or desiring what others have and not taking advantage of others in any way, whether it’s their time, energy, ideas, or possessions.

Likewise, asteya also focuses on “non-stealing” from yourself, your future, and the earth as a whole. Practicing asteya encourages individuals to cultivate a sense of contentment and gratitude. It’s about recognizing and appreciating the abundance in one’s life, rather than leaning into feelings of lack or jealousy as you compare your life to your perception of others’.

*Missed our previous posts on ahimsa and satya? Get caught up here.

How you may see this on your mat:

The yoga mat is a lovely, safe place to allow yourself to very intentionally put these yamas into practice. In the same way that the yoga poses begin to feel more familiar in your body the more you practice, the more you practice asteya on your mat, the more comfortable you will become with embodying asteya in all areas of your life.

You can practice asteya on the mat by:

Respecting the space around you.

Be mindful of how you enter the studio, set up your mat, and gather the suggested props. Move quietly and with consideration as others in the studio are setting up their space and settling into their practice. If you feel rushed and unsettled heading into a yoga class, perhaps try a few deep breaths before entering. While you are not responsible for anyone else’s experience of a yoga class, interacting with the space in a generous and thoughtful way will have a positive effect on others.

Resisting the temptation to compare your practice to others in the class.

Every person’s body is unique and will look and feel different in each pose. Each yoga asana class can be a completely different experience for every person in that room. Focus on your own progress and growth without stealing the joy from your practice by comparing yourself to others.

Listening to your body.

Forcing your body into shapes that are painful, beyond your current capability, or otherwise harmful is a surefire way to steal joy from your practice. Embrace challenges and celebrate the growth that you see over time, and allow yourself to release any need to push beyond healthy boundaries in the process.

Staying present on your mat.

Practicing “non-stealing” from the future means staying focused on the current moment. Notice if your mind starts to wander during your practice and nudge it back to the present moment. Focusing on your inhales and exhales or the physical sensations of your body in a posture are often useful ways to bring your attention back to your practice in the present moment.

How you may see this off your mat:

Practicing asteya off the yoga mat involves applying the principles of “non-stealing” and ethical conduct to various aspects of your daily life. Of course, this is not an exhaustive list, but it is a wonderful place to start.

You can practice asteya off your mat and in the world by:

Expressing gratitude for what you have.

Rather than constantly desiring what others possess and taking more than you need when it comes to material objects, focus on and express gratitude for already having enough. Recognize and appreciate the abundance in your life, fostering contentment with your current circumstances and appreciating all that you have.

Reflecting on your consumption.

We live in a very consumer-driven era. Notice your purchasing habits and pay attention to items you buy but don’t need or don’t bring you any long-lasting joy. Letting go of excess materialism can create space in your life for what you deeply and truly need to come to you.

Being mindful of your environmental impact.

Avoid wasteful behaviors that may contribute to the depletion of resources or harm the environment. Consider opportunities in your daily life for sustainable practices and choices. This allows us to not only practice “non-stealing” from the environment but also practices “non-stealing” from our future and others’ futures.

Honoring boundaries– boundaries that are set by yourself and boundaries that are set by others.

Ask for consent and respect the autonomy and space of others. Respect others’ time. Clear and healthy boundaries are key for “non-stealing” in reference to peace for you and for others.

Affirmations connected to Asteya:

Affirmations are an incredibly powerful tool to help us cultivate the mindset that we desire.

Here are a few asteya-focused affirmations you can repeat to yourself throughout your practice on your mat or throughout your day:

  • All is within.
  • I honor the time, energy, and resources of others.
  • I trust everything I need will come to me at the right time.
  • I am grateful for all that I have.
  • I have everything I need inside myself.

Embrace the affirmations that you feel most connected to or rephrase and customize the affirmations until they resonate with you. Return to the affirmations often and with consistency.

Fun fact: “All is within” is one of our core values here at Seek. You may remember some of our first Seek merch sporting that affirmation back in 2020!

Food for thought:

Use the following journal prompts to help you reflect on asteya and your life. Approach these writing exercises with openness and honesty. Use these prompts as a guide toward learning and self-discovery from the lens of curiosity, without judgment of self or others.

  • Explore your relationship with abundance. Do you more often feel a sense of scarcity (or lack) or a sense of abundance (or bountifulness)? What is one step you can take to shift your mindset more consistently towards abundance?
  • Consider the various forms of stealing beyond material possessions, such as time, energy, or ideas. Have you been mindful of these aspects in your interactions with others? What area of your life would you like to show more asteya-focused mindfulness?
  • Consider the role of comparison in your life. Have you ever stolen joy from yourself by comparing your life, possessions, or achievements to others? How can you cultivate contentment and celebrate the successes of others without feeling diminished?
  • Explore the concept of time theft in your life. Are there situations where you allow others to waste your time? What boundaries would you like to set to be more respectful and mindful of your time?

Resources to look into further:

If you are interested in delving into this topic a little deeper, you can check out these resources:

  • Book- The Yamas & Niyamas: Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice by Deborah Adele
  • Article- The Yamas: Asteya – non-stealing by Emma Newlyn via Ekhart Yoga

AND we would love to see you in class on Saturday, December 9th at 9 am! Audrey will be leading a Mindful Vinyasa flow focused on Asteya.

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