Surprising insights arose this week as I put my intention toward the concept of Asteya and how it might express it self in an asana practice.
First for what Asteya is: non-stealing. As I contemplated this, a dream came to me:
I dreamt of someone I love and respect. I think she was representing my feisty self that is eager to achieve social justice and help the down trodden, and can slip into anger and rage in trying to fight those battles. Even seeing them as battles! Well, she had an American flag tattooed on her middle finger! And another tattoo on her wrist with patriotic colors and a cloth draped across the name of the current president. Although all the letters weren’t visible, enough was there to know who it was. I thought, why would you want that name on you if didn’t like what it represented? The dream comes during the week the president decided it would be okay to make a “twitter” comment about the potential of releasing a nuclear bomb, descending to the level of a crazy dictator making similar claims. It was an outrageous comment in a string of outrageous comments. This week has felt surreal. Well enough of politics, what is the Asteya here?
I turn to Gandhi, who freed a nation practicing non-violence and truthfulness. He remained peaceful in the face of outrageousness. He didn’t allow himself to become permanently stained from his own rage. He practiced Asteya.
“Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” Lao Tzu
A way to practice acceptance of “the way things are” in asana comes in the balance poses. Iyengar in Light on Yoga, starts from tadasana with all or nearly all, the standing poses. Find your grounding, your center. The central channel in front of the spine, the sushumna, can be imagined as a tube of liquid light, peacefully flowing up and down. Connect with this peaceful center. Let this be the anchor you hold as you execute any pose. While learning, use what you need to sustain that grounding as you branch out in a posture. That may mean using props or the wall. Learn to face difficulty with inner peace.
Another perspective on Asteya in asana, is noticing how one area of the body may “steal” from another area of the body. Another way to say that is how one area of the body compensates for another area. When one area is stiff and doesn’t move, another area moves too much. When one muscle group is weak another muscle group over works. Yoga class is a place where someone can help you see and address these compensations. Yoga asana helps with rebalancing these compensations.
Another way we steal from ourselves is to believe we are less than we are, we steal our joy. So, it follows that in yoga we practice accepting ourselves and where we are at. I love this quote from Word Porn:
“Tired of trying to cram her sparkly star-shaped self into society’s beige square holes, she chose to embrace her ridiculous awesomeness and shine like the freaking supernova she was meant to be.”