Asteya – Non-Stealing


Asteya – Non-Stealing 

Again we to head down the rabbit hole of the first limb of Patanjali’s ashtanga yoga and into the Yama-s where we discover Asteya, the third observance. 

It is here that things can get a little blurry, especially in our modern world.

That concept of “non-stealing’ means so much more than not physically taking something from someone else….or even wishing that you possessed that ‘something”. 

Asteya can be very subtle in its nature

In Sanskrit “steya” means “practice of stealing” or “anything stolen or that can be stolen”. The “a” meaning non

It is the word “anything” that becomes part of my contemplation.

It is not only an object that we can steal, it may also be someone’s ideas, another’s time, or sometimes it may simply be taking more than we need. 

Perhaps if we were to search a little deeper we may like to ask our self these questions…

What is it all about when we have such a strong desire that wanting consumes our time, thoughts and actions?

What is it that others have that we strive to achieve for our self, often at a cost to others?

What ideas and thoughts do we take on for our self in order to be seen…whether or not it is of our own making. 

In what way do we honour our learning?

Do we acknowledge where our “wisdom” and understanding has been sourced?

Do we acknowledge our teachers, our influence’rs, our texts of learning?

Do we steal from the full wisdom of ancient teachings, watering them down so it becomes a saleable commodity and more palatable for the masses in our Western world of today…

Are we largely motivated by profit or have a striving to “be” someone, and in the process we loose the integrity and the full potential of the teachings? 

Have we taken a snippet of that ancient wisdom and called it our own? Our own theory, our own protocol, our own program, our style or even our own type of yoga?

Have we been to another’s class and thought “well now that’s a good idea, I really liked that” and from that experience, which is our own individual experience, attempted to incorporate it into our own teaching without a full understanding of the concepts, the purpose of the practice or the process behind that practice… 

How does asteya unconsciously sneak into how we relate to others?

Do we take others for granted?

Do we have unrealistic expectations of another’s time and effort, another’s generosity or another’s personal space? 

Do we unknowingly take from those close to us, our work colleagues or even strangers? 

Do we take our loved ones for granted…keep them waiting, or play on their emotions?


And to our own self? 

Do we steal the fullness of experience from our self by not engaging in a way that is honest and builds our capacity to allow our true potential to arise?

Do we steal from our self opportunity to have that truthful experience on the mat as we practice and also off the mat in our everyday life?

I have to ask myself is procratination a form of asteya?

Are we taking more than we need from nature, from our environment and from the land….food, water, habitats and ecosystems. 

Our modern world edges us to “get ahead,” to “sell” our self. Sometimes it comes at a subtle cost to both our self and to those whom we are trying so desperately to attract. 

Do we steal from our student/clients/patrons by promising something that we cannot guarantee?

Are we advertising in a way that can be as simple as telling someone that they will feel a particular way when they practice yoga?  Maybe we tell them they will be happier after practicing yoga, or they will attain a quiet mind or even find bliss by doing meditation? Maybe we tell them that their stress will reduce if they perform certain postures or practice a particular pranayama. Do we instruct with words that are directional in asana practice that leads a student’s mind in a particular way, which for some may bring the possibility of agitation instead of the goal of “sthira sukham asanam”.

What if the thing we have promised becomes their only expectation and it doesn’t happen…what then?

When we take a moment to look at this concept of asteya from the perspective of yoga let us ask our self this question…….

Are we stealing a person’s OWN experience…the one that is theirs to have…one without any preconceived ideas of what “should” be expected?  

And what is it that lies underneath it all

What fuels asteya?


Fear of not having enough…Fear of not being enough…

It is all food for thought


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