As we begin 2024 we also begin again the study of the 8 Limbs as outlined in Patanjali’s yoga sutras. I remind us of the wisdom of sutra 1.2 which tells us “The restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is Yoga”. Controlling our mind (through meditation, breath, asanas, contemplation) we will be practicing our best yoga, seeking our own yogic goals.
This week we continue with the first limb, the Yamas, the third being Asteya or non-stealing. This concept seems relatively simple: don’t rob a bank. More subtle examples of stealing could be cheating on our taxes, not mentioning the extra drinks the server forgot to put on the tab or not turning in to lost and found those cool sunglasses we found in the parking lot. 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.
Coveting (figuratively stealing) things that are not ours can make us feel depressed, jealous, and negative. Let’s take some time this week to think how we may begin practicing Asteya in our own lives and small adjustments we can make to further that effort. Perhaps take a few moments 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.
Practicing Asteya off the mat can also mean decluttering, letting go of possessions and avoiding acquisitive behavior. Perhaps cleaning your closets and donating your excess, not refilling with more “stuff” is a way to incorporate Asteya into your off the mat practice!
I like this article from Ekhart Yoga which furthers the discussion on Asteya.
Our Practice – Practicing Asteya with Virabhadrasana- Warrior 3
Practicing Asteya on the mat happens when we focus on a balanced and healthy practice, pushing ourselves to - but not over - the edge in our movements; not robbing ourselves of the joy and benefits that a healthy practice brings.
Warrior 3, a strong balancing pose will challenge us to find balance and levity. The Hasta (hand) mudra can be representative of Asteya. We reach our arms out in front with open palms toward the sky. The gesture replicates an offering as well as being open to receiving. Also think of releasing the insecurities that may cause covetous (stealing) thoughts.
From crescent lunge, shift your weight into your front leg and launch into Warrior
Root down into your standing leg and allow your extended back leg to reach back.
Outstretch your arms in Hasta Mudra.
Feel the stability and strength in your lower body; press back through the heel of the lifted, extended leg and extend through the crown of your head, sending energy out in both directions.
Hasta (hand) mudra reaches our arms out in front of us and shining our palms open toward the sky. Create a bowl with palms.
Meditating on 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
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”.
Nurturing with Food – Mushroom Barley Soup
Link to both recipes below.
See you on the mat!