“Thou Shall Not Steal.”
You’ve heard that before, right? 10 Commandments. Pretty straight-forward.
But why is this concept in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and what does it mean for you as a practitioner of yoga?
As we’ve discussed before, the Yoga Sutra acts not only as one of the seminal guidebooks on self-realization, but it also provides a universal moral code in the form of the yama and niyama.
Stealing can be understood in a number of ways. Most obvious is the unlawful taking of another person’s property. But stealing can also be applied to a person/animal (kidnapping) or sex (rape) or ideas (plagiarism).
In traditional commentary on the YS, it is explained that not only is the act of stealing prohibited for the aspiring yogi, but even the thought of stealing is a transgression of the yama. Since action is initiated in the mind, the more energy spent thinking about a specific action or desire, the more likely it is that one will enact such behavior.
Stealing inevitably causes harm, therefore this goes against the very first and most important rule of all – ahimsa!
And stealing more often than not involves lying, thus satya – truthfulness – too is thrown to the wind.
As we can see, the yamas really build upon one another and work together to provide structure for one’s choices, behavior and lifestyle.
As an aspiring yogi and conscientious human being, it is essential that we uphold ourselves to a standard that prohibits lying, cheating or stealing from others.
I don’t think I need to explain this any more. Basically don’t steal. That even means don’t give a yoga studio a different email address and name just so you can get your “first” class free even though you’ve been there before. I mention this example because I am totally guilty of that. Especially when I was in college, I would go to a new town and studio hop and take all sorts of free classes. That’s kind of lame….but I was kind of broke…and now I’m a poor yoga teacher, so it all comes back around. 🙂
On a subtler level this means no stealing from ourselves as well. What does this mean?
I understand this as refraining from activity and behavior that steals one’s own energy and personal power. For me, there are certain activities that rob me of my vitality and general happiness. This makes it way harder to practice yoga – asana, meditation and pranayama – as well as the fact that it is more challenging to be a present, aware, compassionate and kind person when you feel like poo.
Just think about a time you slept terribly and then you didn’t eat any real food but instead just drank coffee….and then you got stuck in traffic, were late for a meeting or maybe had to deal with some complications with work/family, I bet you were a real meanie and you felt like a spaced-out, stressed-out whirlwind of awfulness, right? I know that I’m a total mess without proper care.
Staying up too late, not eating healthy nourishing food, smoking, drinking alcohol, overdoing it on the heavy foods/sweets, hanging out with negative people, overexerting yourself physically, ignoring your body’s needs and causing physical injury to yourself, spending too much time on the computer or in front of a TV – these are all ways that we steal from ourselves, from our health and from our happiness.
If we look at this a little deeper from a yogic perspective, you are not even stealing from yourself in these instances, since you are not your body and you do not “own” your body. Your body is just the vehicle that was so generously given to you (beautiful soul that you are!) in order to manifest on this earth at this time, to carry out your karmas and fulfill your dharma, to serve others, serve God and eventually achieve Self-realization.
Remember this always, and treat your body like the great gift that is.
Thanks for reading!
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