We continue our 2022 exploration of the 8 Limbs as outlined in Patanjali’s yoga sutras. Of course we always refer back to sutra 1.2, the meaning of yoga, “Yogas citta vrtti nirodhah” or “The restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is Yoga”. Simply put, if we learn to control our mind (through meditation, breath, asanas, contemplation) we will achieve the goal of yoga.
Meditation - Thinking about Asteya
This week we continue with the first limb, the Yamas, which are rules of moral code (there are 5), the third being Asteya or non-stealing.
If we think of Asteya literally it means non stealing. So, obviously, we shouldn’t rob a bank, keep the extra change or “not mention” the extra drinks the waitress forgets to put on the check. At a deeper level (yes, there’s always a deeper level 😊) it could be not coveting or wishing for things that are not ours or pining for the possessions, talents, achievements or successes of others. We may have feelings of inadequacy or feel we are lacking in some way; we may wish for things that others have whether they are possessions or talents or life situations.
When we free ourselves of such desires, we can establish the virtue of Asteya within us. Gandhi is quoted as saying “mankind’s greed and craving for artificial needs are also stealing”. Other ways that we may be “stealing” are when we show up late (stealing peoples time), act greedily (taking more than we need), over talking (steal someone’s opportunity to contribute).
I think about Asteya in terms of making do with less. I find that the simpler my “stuff” is, the easier my life goes. For example, I have been in a huge paring down mode in my closet. I have donated many of my clothes and other possessions and am left with just the ones I use regularly (and, full disclosure, love). When I go to my closet or cabinets I feel much calmer, choices are fewer, and my day starts more easily. I know this may seem silly (or self-serving), but I find that wanting (needing) less stuff has made me feel less acquisitive, more at peace with where I am. I also realize how much less we can all survive with (more on that another day).
Taken at a greater level, I suggest that we work on finding gratitude and joy with where we are versus wishing and coveting (stealing) things that are not ours (which can make us feel depressed, jealous and negative). Let’s take some time this week to think how we may find small ways to consciously practice Asteya in our lives. Perhaps take a few moments each day to acknowledge your gratitude for one thing in your life (as we do each time we meet for class); this will serve us well on our journey to Asteya.
“The desire to possess and enjoy what another has, drives a person to do evil deeds. It includes not only taking what belongs to another without permission, but also using something, for a different purpose to that intended, or beyond the time permitted by its owner.” – BKS Iyengar, Light on Yoga
Below you will find some articles further exploring Asteya that I particularly liked.
Our Practice - Marichyasana A
Marichyasana A (also known as Marichi’s pose or Sage Twist) is an asymmetrical seated forward bend and is the first of four poses in ashtanga dedicated to the Sage Marichi. The name comes from his name which in Sanskrit means “ray of light.” The pose is a forward fold combined with a gentle twist, and as with many forward folds, we can consider that it focuses our mind inwards, a lovely concept for practicing Asteya. This focusing inwards could symbolize the avoidance of media and other influences which encourage us to acquire more, gossip more, take things we do not need. It can represent our own “ray of light” sustaining us and making us whole from within.
This is a challenging pose - remember it is the exploring the pose not "achieving" it that is important on our yoga journey. I took this picture of myself doing it and remind myself of this as well (full disclosure, i cannot clasp my hands behind my back on the left side, so I only took the picture on the right). 🙂
Coming into the pose - I recommend trying the pose at the end of a practice when you are fully warmed up.
Start in Dandasana – legs outstretched, feet flexed, back straight (maybe put the edge of a blanket or flat pillow under your hips in back to tip the pelvis a little bit)
Bend your right leg and place your foot on mat aligning the outer edge of the right foot with the outer edge of your right hip joint with right knee to ceiling. Adjust this to feel right in your body. If possible, try to keep the right foot parallel with the left leg.
Left hand goes to the floor and lean into it reaching forward with your right arm with right shoulder possibly going past the right knee. Wrap your right arm around your right shin.
Bring left arm behind you reaching left hand towards right hand.
If you would like to take it a bit further, you could exhale and tip the pelvis forward and lengthen your spine into a forward fold.
The benefits of the pose can include: strengthening the spine and back muscles, stretches and improves flexibility in the hamstrings, shoulders and back. Some practitioners believe the twisting helps improve digestion and energy levels.
Nurturing with Food – Vegan Vegetable Korma
I absolutely love Indian food and am constantly trying to recreate some of my favorites in healthy, vegan ways. The following recipe I adopted from several that I experimented with. In fact, as I write this I am thinking about going downstairs to see if anyone else grabbed the leftovers. I served it with basmati rice and store-bought naan. I also have mine with a side of hot, spicy Punjabi pickled mango which is apparently an acquired taste. 🤣😂😂Enjoy!
See you on the mat!