Take Only What You Need (Asteya)

Continuing with the yamas, this month I’m focusing on the third yama, Asteya.

Asteya is all about not taking from ourselves or others. The literal translation of Asteya is not to steal, and at first glance, it seems pretty simple, doesn’t it? We all know we shouldn’t steal, but what’s this about not stealing from ourselves?

As I researched this topic over the last month, I realized that practicing Asteya isn’t as simple as you might think. But once you scratch the surface and take the time to really work on this yama, you start to get down to the subtle layers and definitions of Asteya:

  • Don’t underestimate your own talent. Have you ever sold yourself short when it comes to your skills and talents? I know I have! Many times, both in my professional career in IT and in my career as a yoga teacher, I’ve sold myself short.

    When I first began my career in IT as a software developer back in 1996, I constantly compared myself to the other developers, telling myself I wasn’t as good as them. It took me a long time to work through that, to be able to recognize what MY strengths are and own them. I’m finally in a place where I am proud and confident of what I can do in my IT career.

    My yoga teaching career was very similar. It took me a long time to stop comparing myself to other teachers and feeling like my classes weren’t as creative/challenging/fun as theirs. My confidence in what I bring to MY classes has grown over the years — but I still have a ways to go when it comes to my yoga teaching.

    However, when you fall into this downward spiral of setting your goals based on what you see others doing, and feeling bad about your limitations in those areas, you’re stealing from your own personal growth. Remember this: one person’s path is not better than another’s because we are all on different paths. Consider how much time that person put in to get where they are, any special training they might have chosen to take to build their skills, etc. Don’t steal from your own experience by focusing on theirs. And remember — trust your innate wisdom.

    As I said — I’m still working on this but am getting better all the time. And that means growth. And that is what it’s all about!
  • Show up on time. Whether it’s to a yoga class, a meeting or some other event, when you show up late, you’re preventing yourself from experiencing the full benefits of the experience. AND you’re disturbing the peace of others in attendance.

    Be mindful of how you spend your time and others’ time. For example, send shorter emails (“just the facts, ma’am”), don’t schedule unnecessary meetings, show up to events on time, and don’t flake out on your plans. I love the following quote from entrepreneur, David Khalil:

    “Time is one of your most valuable commodities and how you spend it determines what your life will be. You can either waste it, invest it or give it away.”
  • Give credit where credit is due. Make sure you are acknowledging others’ ideas, and pass along the compliments instead of keeping them inside. Don’t steal from others by not allowing them to shine. Show your appreciation and gratitude!
  • Take only what you need. Ahh…this is the one that stuck with me the most this month! If you think about it, we as humans need very little from Mother Earth. We need food, shelter, warmth, safety, intimate and loving relationships, and fulfillment of our life’s purpose. All the rest is just “stuff”.

    Now that my youngest daughter has moved out, and my husband and I are true “empty nesters”, I’ve been working on downsizing throughout our whole house. I have to admit that when I really started getting into this task and thinking about Asteya, I was embarrassed and ashamed of all the stuff I have that not only do I not NEED, but I have never even used!

    I’m currently in the midst of assessing where I can reduce waste or overuse. Much of this has meant that I have put together large donation piles of “extra” things I have (i.e., pots and pans, furniture, etc.), and I hope that me donating these things to someone who might actually need them will help in reducing my carbon footprint here on earth. I want to leave this earth better than I found it, so I’ll continue looking for more ways I can do this better.

If you’re a yogi, then you can work on Asteya in class in several ways:

  • Focus on breathing in fully on both the inhale and exhale, so there is an even exchange of give and take. If you don’t breathe properly, you’re stealing from your source energy.
  • Don’t take more than you need from the poses (i.e., don’t move beyond your limits).
  • Don’t steal from yourself by comparing yourself to others. Appreciate your body as it is in this moment, and all the wonderful things it can do!
  • Be present in each pose throughout the entire class. We steal from ourselves when we aren’t present, and when we lack compassion and understanding for ourselves in hard times (i.e., illness, sorrow, significant change). Being present can help us ensure we are enjoying a practice that helps, rather than hurts, us.

“When one is established in non-stealing, all gems manifest.”

Yoga Sutra 2.37

Namaste and Have a Sparkling Day!


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