Yoga Philosophy: Asteya, the Third Principle of Yama


You may already know that being compassionate and honest are two ways of practicing yoga on and off the mat. Let’s dive into asteya, the third principle of yama.

What Is Asteya?

Translated from Sanskrit, asteya is non-stealing, or, sticking to more positive terms, abundance. Its meaning runs a lot deeper than simply not taking someone else’s material possessions. But you may already expect that.

Below are a few ideas on how to practice asteya in your everyday life.

Ways of Practicing Asteya on and off the Mat

Asteya in Relationships

Like any aspect of the eight limbs, the practice of asteya also extends to intangible concepts. These can be time, ideas, happiness, enjoyment, and more.

1. Be Respectful of Others’ Time

We can steal someone’s time in a myriad of different ways, for example by being late. I know when we all have unexpected situations. When your car breaks down or you realize your toddler has pooped right before leaving the house.

These are external factors that are out of our control. I’m talking about repetitive lateness that can be managed.

Yet, there are times when people try to cover up their shortcomings. They don’t want to look bad, so they may make something up. Such as “Sorry, I’m late, the subway was taking forever.” When, in actuality, it didn’t.

This takes the blame off of them. However, this involves not only stealing other people’s time, but also lying. That goes against satya.

If you know that you tend to be late, show respect to the person whom you’ve made an arrangement with. Start getting ready sooner or leave earlier if you know that you may get caught in a traffic jam. Or at least notify them that you’re on your way and how long you think it will take you to get there. Be honest about that, too. Don’t say you’ll be there in 5 minutes if you know it’ll take you 15.

2. Tidy Up Your Mess

If you live with someone, it’s a good idea to pick up and clean up after yourself. Don’t leave your stuff scattered around. That requires someone else to take their time to clean up after you.

3. Pause and Breathe

Another thing we can steal from others is their happiness and good mood. If we’re having a bad day, we may want to snap at anyone who happens to cross our path or make a tiny mistake. Often the people we meet, such as the waiting staff, clerks, and cashiers, have nothing to do with our problems.

If you notice you’re about to snap at a stranger, pause and take a few breaths first. Perhaps it’s a better idea to smile or say something kind. Give it a try! It may even lighten up your day, as well.

Asteya Towards Your Children

Parenting can be tough, but it shapes the future of our children. So, …

1. Be Present

If you have children, it’s important not to steal attention and time from them. Set your phone aside and talk to them, read, go for a walk, pay attention to what they want, say, or reach for.

Simply be present. As a working mom, I know it’s hard. But, even a little quality time can help your kids grow into well-rounded and successful adults.

2. Let Them Follow Their Own Dreams

And finally, do not project your expectations and dreams onto your children. That steals their right to have and follow their own dreams. There are so many who never get to discover and pursue their passion. Instead, they continue the cycle by expecting their children to do what they never got the chance to.

Asteya in Words

Have you ever had an absolutely amazing conversation, but the other person barely said a word? You may have had the luck to talk to a great listener.

It is important to show respect to people we’re talking to by actively listening to them.

You can do it by watching your body language, for example, by turning toward the other person and nodding. Asking questions, not interrupting the speaker mid-sentence, and being present are all important, too.

Asteya to Yourself

It may seem illogical that we can steal something from ourselves. Yet, we not only can but also consistently do it. We are stealing from our health, wellbeing, happiness, and future.

1. Take Care of Yourself

We’re well versed in the benefits of a balanced diet, exercise, and enough sleep. But when it comes to putting this knowledge into practice, we may forget or ignore it.

Have you ever told yourself that you’ll start exercising or eating cleaner next Monday? Or next month, or on the first of January? Or that you’ll catch up on sleep during the weekend?

There is no reason to wait. There are things you can do right now! Get on your yoga mat and do a few simple poses (or just get the Savasana part on the couch). Go jogging or get a gym membership. Get rid of the junk food in your kitchen and start drinking more water.

2. Just Do It

Next, don’t steal the chance of doing what you want from yourself. (As long as it doesn’t hurt anyone or anything in the process, of course.) Not going for one’s dreams is the most common regret of dying people.

Go for what you really desire.

You want to take a karate class? Do so.

You want to go back to college? Go for it.

You want to cut your hair short, get a Mohawk, and dye it pink? You guessed it – do it.

Even if you fail or change your mind in the meantime, it doesn’t matter. You’ll likely learn and experience loads in the process, or at least will have an interesting story to tell.

3. Say “No”

And last but not least, learn to say “no”. That doesn’t mean not helping other people. By all means, do so. But make sure your own needs are being met first. And that it’s not stealing your time, sleep, or anything else you really need, as well as not hurting you in any way.

Asteya Toward the Environment

When it comes to asteya, it is sometimes urged not to steal the lives of animals for food. But plants also have lives, and we need to eat somehow, too.

Whatever diet you follow, a way of practicing asteya is to take only as much food as you need. Regardless of whether that’s plant-based or not. Or, more specifically, not to waste food. About a third of all food is wasted every year. To avoid that, plan purchases, store foods, and prep meals more effectively.

Asteya in Asana Practice

1. Come to Class on Time

Firstly, show up to class on time. People often come to yoga to relax and unwind. Someone coming in late can distract them and break their concentration.

Arriving late can also steal from your own practice. You may miss parts of the class, and jump into more demanding postures without having warmed up.

2. Find Your Edge

Push your boundaries, but not so far that you have no energy left at the end of the class. At the same time, don’t hold back too much either, because then you may not be progressing at all. Experiment and find balance.

Final Words

I’ll finish off with a yoga sutra.

“To one established in non-stealing, all wealth comes.”

When we learn to look for happiness and fulfillment within us, there is no need to rely on any external factors.

Let’s Talk!

How do you implement asteya in your daily life? Are there any tips of yours that you can share?

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