The Yamas and Niyamas are the 10 ethical guidelines behind the practice of yoga. They encompass non-violence, truth, non-stealing, non-excess, non-possessiveness, purity, contentment, self-discipline, self-study, and surrender.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about Asteya, the yama of non-stealing. In day-to-day life, we think of this as not stealing material possessions from stores or other people, however, there are many ways to steal and they don’t all encompass material goods.
How do you manage time?
As a yoga instructor, one of the main principles I strive for is not stealing the time of those who come to my classes. Your time in class is valuable, so I don’t want to add any additional stress by running late and causing a delay for your time after class.
I also try to bring this awareness into my everyday routine because I learned a long time ago that by being aware of my relationship to time, I could better manage my stress level. Take a moment to become aware of your relationship to time – is it a healthy relationship, or are you running from one thing to another and not allowing any downtime, or even wasting time with excuses or procrastination?
How do you fill the void?
Most people aren’t aware of it, but hoarding is another form of stealing. Hoarding applies to a variety of things ranging from food to money and possessions. Take a moment to mindfully review what is necessary for your lifestyle. Think about what you are keeping due to emotional or mental attachments and let go of the items you can. By doing this, you are freeing yourself as well as giving to others who may need what is no longer serving you.
In yoga we learn that the root cause of stealing and hoarding is desire, which can be managed through the regular practice of yoga, as it enables the recognition of why the desire is there and allows a healthier way to fill the void.
Here are two yoga practices I like to do when I am feeling less than content and letting desire get out of control:
1. Full Body Breath – Lay down with your arms at your side and your eyes closed. Take a deep breath, imagining your breath flowing like a white light from the crown of your head and out through the tips of your toes. Repeat as long as you like until you feel calm, grounded, and able to see your desires for what they are.
2. Sun Salutations – Whether you like to hold your yoga poses or flow through them, taking five to ten minutes to connect breath and body in a sun salutation is a wonderful way to get out of your head and see things as an observer, with a sense of renewal and vitality.
The practice of yoga connects body and breath, freeing our mind to draw a greater awareness into our lives. Through the Yamas and Niyamas, we awaken this awareness, becoming more mindful of our actions and place in the world.