The Yama of Asteya: Beyond the Obvious

yama yoga sutra Jun 17, 2024

Asteya, the principle of non-stealing, might seem straightforward at first glance. Many of us feel confident in our adherence to it. We don’t take bikes that aren’t ours, and if we find a lost wallet, we return it. This level of honesty is commendable, but the true essence of asteya goes much deeper.

The Subtle Layers of Stealing

Louise Hay, a spiritual teacher, once said that even taking a pen from your employer is stealing. This perspective highlights the importance of integrity in all our actions, no matter how small. Asteya isn't just about the physical act of taking something that doesn’t belong to us. It also encompasses behaviors like hoarding, greed, and taking up more resources than we need.

When my grandmother passed away, she left behind an abundance of possessions, a testament to a lifetime of hoarding. This tendency to accumulate and consume more than necessary is a form of stealing from others and from the environment.

Time and Presence

Asteya also involves respecting other people's time. Being late or failing to honor commitments can be seen as stealing time from others. Moreover, when we aren’t fully present in the moment—distracted by complaints or worries—we rob ourselves of the richness of life.

Gandhi, who included asteya among his eleven vows, saw non-stealing as a broader principle. It’s not just about not taking someone’s bicycle but also about resisting greed and craving for artificial needs. This aligns with the idea that desiring excessively or hoarding resources is a form of theft.

Understanding Desire and Enoughness

Desire, in itself, isn’t bad. In fact, it drives us forward and fuels our growth. However, when desire turns into greed or a need to accumulate, it becomes problematic. The root of this greed often lies in a sense of lack—believing we are not enough or that we don’t have enough.

Yoga teaches that this sense of lack is an illusion. We are already whole and enough as we are. When we feel disconnected from this truth, we tend to seek fulfillment in external possessions, which can lead to stealing, hoarding, and excessive consumption.

Cultivating Abundance and Gratitude

To practice asteya, we must cultivate a mindset of abundance. Recognizing that we already have enough and will always be provided for helps eliminate the urge to steal or hoard. Reflecting on my own life, I've noticed that despite challenges, I was never left needing or wanting. This realization reinforces the belief that we are always looked after.

Respecting Others and Ourselves

Practicing asteya means giving credit where it's due and celebrating others' successes without jealousy. When we feel envy, we must work to genuinely feel happy for others' achievements. This positive energy fosters gratitude for our own successes and helps us feel connected to the abundance in our lives.

Additionally, we must avoid stealing others' peace of mind. Our moods and reactions are our responsibility. By managing our emotions, we respect others' right to peace and harmony.


Asteya is about much more than avoiding theft. It’s about overcoming comparison, recognizing our own enoughness, and fostering a mindset of abundance. By practicing asteya, we align ourselves with the truth that we are whole and connected to the richness of life.

Incorporating asteya into our daily lives means respecting others’ time and contributions, managing our desires, and cultivating gratitude. By doing so, we not only adhere to this yama but also move towards a more fulfilling and content life.

Remember, you are enough, and you will always have exactly what you need. This trust and knowing reconnect us to our own wholeness and abundance, making asteya a practice of inner peace and fulfillment.

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