Asteya: non-stealing in life and yoga


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Asteya, or non-stealing, is the 3rd yama (moral discipline). We’ll be exploring different aspects of asteya at the Watershed Wellness yoga studio during the month of April. If you missed our posts about the first two yamas, ahimsa and satya, you can check out the posts here.

It’s safe to say most of us aren’t thieves in the general sense. We don’t steal from our friends’ houses or shoplift from stores. The third yama, asteya, means so much more than not physically stealing from someone else. There are many other ways to steal from ourselves and others. We’ll examine two examples of stealing: self-doubt and lack of clarity.

The root cause of stealing:  I’m not good enough

People steal when they have a sense of lack, insecurity, wanting, feeling incomplete. There’s a sense of having to get what you need at any cost.

We steal away our own ability to thrive through self-doubt.

We steal from ourselves when we lack belief in ourselves, have low self-esteem, make judgments or criticisms of ourselves, and demand perfection. All the expectations we place upon ourselves disallow space for self-expression and giving yourself to the world. We get in our own way so much that we can’t do the good work we are meant to do.

This also affects how we interact with each other. Deborah Adele in the book “The Yamas and Niyamas: Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice” talks about how asteya affects our  relationships with others:

“When we feel unhappy with ourselves or our lives, we have a tendency to drag people down with us or make snide comments that come from jealousy. When we are genuinely caring of the other, that caring finds expression in ways that feel supportive and tender to the other.”

The role of clarity in asteya

Here’s a quick example of how lacking clarity can be an example of stealing. As a business owner, when I lack clarity about something I waste a huge amount of time and effort. For example, I’ve had a hard time defining a clear and concise time off policy for employees. I’ve not mapped this out likely because I want to give folks who work for us time off, but also need to make money to keep the doors open.

Because I don’t have a clear policy, when someone asks for time off it takes a lot of my energy to determine whether I should grant this person time off. I have to look at the schedule, go back and forth with the employee about what they want and when they might fill in for a future shift. Eventually I’ll land on a decision that is entirely emotional (usually dependent on how I feel that day) and doesn’t feel great to either party. I’m stealing time and energy from myself and also stealing the freedom through clarity from the employee by not having a clear policy in place.

This lack of clarity leaves me (and likely the employee) feeling like there’s a struggle between getting what I need as a business owner, and the employee feeling like they have to push for something as simple as time off. Taking the time to create clear and concise policies saves a lot of time and effort, and the folks who work for us have the freedom of understanding expectations.

The further nuance of this is being able to stand in your own integrity and truthfulness (satya) by examining what you truly need and being able to confidently express your decisions.

The ability to gather your thoughts, communicate with intention and speak from your heart saves time and energy.

How to practice asteya on your mat:

  • Practice the mantra: I am enough. Whenever feelings of doubt, lack or insecurity start to sneak in, practice this mantra. The practice of knowing we are enough, and that we have enough is the key to desiring less in life and feeling more whole and happy.
  • Take the time to find clarity in your life. Move and act with intention with an open heart.
  • Focus on yourself and your own goals by not comparing yourself to others. Be in your body and in your own experience.

We love taking theory into practice with you. Check out our class schedule to see when you can be in community through practice during the month of April.

Written by Amanda Barp

Amanda Barp is co-founder of Watershed Wellness, a licensed massage therapist with 10+ years experience, a registered yoga teacher with a passion for learning and teaching about the human body & how to feel at home in it.