Asteya is the third Yama, or ethical guideline we strive to practice as yogis. It is a Sanskrit word that translates to “non-stealing.” While this Yama may seem straightforward, it can have many meanings, as do the other Yamas. According to Swami Sivananda, “Desire or want is the root cause for stealing.” Stealing can mean taking what doesn’t belong to us. However, this can be subjective and have different meanings for different individuals.
Stealing what doesn’t belong to us can include material objects, possessions or even ideas that others have. When we compare ourselves to others and desire what others have, or dwell on what we don’t have, this can lead to desire or want. In turn, stealing may occur.
A different meaning of Asteya is being content or accepting what comes to you through honest means. This can be tough! So often, we have the ideal that having or achieving more will lead to success and happiness. This can become a slippery slope. Often, we compare ourselves to others and this can lead to dishonesty, or taking what isn’t ours.
As yogis, it is imperative to develop an awareness of our needs versus our desires/wants. Once a distinction is made between the two, the concept of non-stealing may become clearer. Self-exploration and introspection can help develop this awareness. In the practice of Yoga, we strive to let go of the desire for things. If desire or want leads to stealing, then once we let go of this desire and focus on our practice, we will get what we need.
Stealing from others is but one aspect of Asteya. We can also steal from ourselves. For example, we lose precious time by not being present in the moment. If we remain in the past or constantly look to the future, we are robbing ourselves of our lives at this very moment. We can lose time by not making the most of the time that we do have and are graciously given.
In addition, stealing from yourself can come from comparison to others. When we compare ourselves to others, we lose what makes us unique individuals. By practicing Asteya, we are reminded to appreciate ourselves and what makes each of us unique and beautiful. In the same vein, we respect others’ unique traits and abilities.
There are many different layers to the meaning of this Yama. In short, it is important to be honest with yourself and others. Claiming who you are and what is yours is essential. Taking from others is dishonest and goes against yogic ethics. When we maintain a regular practice in Yoga, we can strive to let go of our desires and wants to fully focus on our practice. That is the true wealth to strive to attain.
How about you? What are some ways you practice Asteya on and off of your mat? What are some other meanings that this Yama may have for you?