The 8 Limbs of Yoga - Asteya

asteyapratisthayam sarvaratnopasthanam
By abiding in freedom from the desire for other's possessions, that which is precious is revealed, and all that is beneficial is freely given
Yoga Sutra II,37 translation by Mukunda Stiles

The next of the yamas is asteya - non-stealing.  Not taking that which does not belong to us forms one of the basic rules of society all over the world and is clearly as relevant now as it was when the Yoga Sutras were compiled.  Most of  us would hope never to steal anything knowingly or unknowingly.

It is not only belongings that we can steal, but another's happiness, confidence, time, energy or ideas.  I suppose that we all know people who seem to drain us of energy and positivity, who never seem content and who leave us feeling depleted after spending time with them.  Making the vow of asteya is about never being that person!  In this yama Patanjali entreats us to give more than we take and never to miss an opportunity to contribute positively to the world.

Modern concerns about the environment are connected to the concept of asteya.  We try not to take too much from the world and to ask ourselves if we really need that item/car journey/food.  We attempt to waste less and to value what we have more.  The idea behind asteya also carries with it the sense of replenishing the world for the things that we do take.

Bringing a sense of asteya to your yoga practice might mean that you stop coveting someone else's yoga practice (I guess we've all envied that person who with seeming ease manages the pose we feel we'll never be able to do); it might be trying not to take another person's peace by turning up late or crashing into class noisily; it might be not robbing yourself of the glory of your own yoga practice by chiding yourself for what it isn't, rather than enjoying what it is.

The deeper meaning of this yama is that possessions and attachments sometimes engender fear and anxiety - once we have things we can be guilty of holding onto them, becoming attached to them, wanting more, forgetting what is really important.  Patanjali tells us in this sutra that all wealth comes to those who practise non-stealing - that when we are free from jealously guarding our ideas and belongings, or coveting the possessions or attributes of another person, then we are free to appreciate that which is really important and those things then flow to us naturally.


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