A Practical View of Yama pt3 — Asteya

by Aug 9, 2016

After writing in my last blog that truth could only be totally practiced in silence I had a bit of a crisis of conscience. It seems that these days with so many people around the world teaching and practicing yoga that there is a tsunami of writing and talking and videos about the subject. Indeed, you can pay a lot of money to do a weekend yoga workshop and be talked at the whole time. All of this “knowledge” create vrittis that, as we all know must be discarded to achieve “Yoga”. For myself, the art of teaching yoga should be approximately 80% silent observation, 19% physical adjustments and 1% talking. Almost all talking either engages the student’s ego or the teacher’s or both.


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Despite this, the majority of yoga teachers just want to tell their students what to do instead of empowering them to use to tools the practice provides to find the answers inside themselves. You want to know how to do an asana? Practice and observe carefully and your body will lead you there in its own time. This is a far deeper, more profound way to learn. Always telling students how to practice and what is “right” and what is “wrong” is stealing from them the gift of discovering this for themselves.

This is where I get to the next Yama. And, yes, despite feeling a little hypocritical about adding to the screeds written about Yoga, I am committed to at least finishing this blog project “A Practical View of Yama.”

Asteya is non-stealing. This is easy to understand, but it must be remembered that there are more ways to steal from someone than taking their possessions. There is cultural and emotional theft. The dis-empowerment of another is theft. Not paying one’s taxes is theft. I could go on. What we can see from this that asteya, satya and ahimsa are all connected, with ahimsa leading the way as theft is the harming of others as is lying or telling hurtful truths.

It must also be remembered that theft starts with being jealous or envious of another’s possessions or begrudging them something that is rightfully theirs. In today’s increasingly commercial world it is more and more difficult not to experience desire or envy for what others have. This is the task the aspiring Yoga practitioner has.

Patanjali Yoga Sutra ii: 37 is “Asteya pratishthayam sarvaratna upasthanam”, which Edwin F Bryant translates in his book “The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali” as “When one is established in refrainment from stealing, all jewels manifest.” Thus, when the one is free from the desire of possessions all the best things, the “ratna or jewels”, of life are bestowed upon one. This is evident in my own experience, because it seems to me that the less I am concerned about material wealth, the more I appreciate the natural richness of my life. I am blessed with a beautiful wife and family. I live in an outstanding environment. I seem to cover my financial obligations doing something I love and I am surrounded by wonderful and talented people. What more could a person want in this life?

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