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How Do You Practice Asteya?

Happiness | Lifestyle

My life has been a little out of balance lately. Okay, a lot out of balance. Both my part time jobs have been pressing me to pick up more hours, the kids are out of school for the summer, and to top it all off, I cut back on teaching yoga classes to make more room for all this other “stuff.”

The “me time” I cherished so much is gone. And morning meditation? Forget about it.

It all came crashing down this past weekend when I got caught stealing. That’s right. Me. Stealing. Okay, so I didn’t really mean to do it, but it happened anyway.

A Panic Attack

I was trying hard to make it out of the hectic and overwhelming grocery store on a Saturday morning. The whole shopping experience was a fiasco; I was at a new store because the one by my house is being remodelled, I couldn’t find anything I was looking for, and was running late because I told my kids I would be home by noon. I worry excessively when I have to leave them home alone, even for a second.

That’s when it happened. A panic attack. My vision became foggy, my mind clouded, and I couldn’t breathe. I just had to get out of there. Now. So I headed for the door.

Halfway across the busy parking lot, I looked down at my shopping cart, full of groceries. Why weren’t any of them in shopping bags? Because I forgot to check out. I had taken the entire cart of food outside without paying for anything.

The panic got worse. I left the cart where it was and headed for my car. I sat in the driver’s seat and tried to think. Think!  But there was nothing. All I could think of was just get home. It wasn’t long before there were red and blue lights in my rearview mirror.

Experiencing Asteya

I never thought I would experience the Ashtanga yoga restraint asteya in this capacity. I don’t steal things on purpose. I had always overlooked that one as not really applying to me. But this experience forced me to take a second look.

Asteya, non-stealing, is one of the five yoga restraints, or yamas, according to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. You can see why it’s easy to look this one over. It seems pretty obvious; don’t take what’s not yours. But asteya can be looked at in a different way, too.

Have you ever thought about what is holding you back? Maybe you struggle with self-image, contentment, or being consistent. Let’s take consistency, for example. Say you struggle with maintaining a consistent yoga practice. You go for a few times a week for one month, then put it off the next. This lack of consistency is robbing you of your ability to reach your goals and advance in your practice.

Did you ever think that by not paying attention to these red flags, that you were stealing from yourself?

“I never finish anything that I start.”

“I want to lose ten pounds, but I keep eating for comfort.”

“I want to forgive my ex-boyfriend for cheating on me, but I just can’t.”

What Are You Struggling With?

What is the underlying root cause? Is it fear? Pain? Pride?

If you can identify your red flag, and put a name on it, then you can then identify its root. Once you discover the root, write it down. Then circle back to the suffering this is causing. Tell yourself you are stealing from yourself by not dealing with this head-on. Just like I was stealing from myself by taking on way too much too fast.

Make a list of things you can do to work on your root problem. Start small. Baby steps. Even if you think your first goal will be easy to meet, establish it anyway. Instead of “I will be consistent and go to yoga every day at 5:30!” maybe you can say, “I will be consistent and go to yoga every Thursday for a month.” Be realistic, and set yourself up for success.

If, along your journey, you get stuck, ask for help. You don’t have to do it alone, you know. But just like you wouldn’t steal from a grocery store, you wouldn’t rightfully steal from yourself, either.

Om Shanti.

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