Teaching Ashtanga,  Uncategorized,  Yoga Philosophy,  Yoga Sutras

Yoga Sutras For Modern Day Life: Reset and Recharge

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 2:37-For those who do not steal (asteya), jewels will materialize.

Defining the Sutra

What is stealing according to the Yogic tradition? In his translation of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali,  Satchidananda gives many great examples.


-Not doing our jobs at work

-Taking supplies from work

-Taking ideas

-Using up the earth’s resources


-Blocking the natural ebb and flow of life

-Not sharing

-Not giving when you have surplus and your neighbor has nothing

-Controlling the economy in such a way that is is hard for working class people to get what they need for their families

-unfair prices and wages

-dumping surplus foods instead of giving them to the hungry

-a few people holding most of the world’s wealth

-spending money on war and going to the moon instead of education and hunger

-Stealing health and happiness from others


Satchidananda sets a few baselines for asteya or not stealing.

If we do not show gratitude for the resources we use, we are stealing.

He starts off my stating, “all of us are thieves”.

“Knowingly and unknowingly, we steal things from nature. With every minute, with each breath, we pick nature’s pocket. Whose air do we breathe? It is nature’s. But that doesn’t mean we should stop breathing and die. Instead, we should receive each breath with reverence and use it to serve others; then we are not stealing. If we accept it and don’t give anything in return, we are thieves. “

Richness and monetary wealth are not necessarily connected

“The richest person is the one with a cool mind, free of tension and anxiety.

 The “jewels” may or may not be monetary

“If we smile at someone, he or she will smile back.  And a smile costs nothing. We should plague everyone with joy.”

If we practice gratitude for what we have, help others, and share, we will find joy in what we have and everything will appear as a jewel.  As we discussed in the verse on Ahimsa (non harming), what we put out is what we give back.  So by cultivating the attributes of non stealing, we are more likely to draw monetary wealth as well.

Modern Day Application

Satchidananda gave us great examples of stealing that apply in the modern day. Since this is a blog on Yoga, lets take his examples and apply them to the Yoga world.

-Not doing our jobs at work-If a student or studio hires someone to teach Ashtanga Yoga in the lineage of Pattabhi Jois and the person shows up and mix Jois’s teachings with Iyengar or Power Yoga, are they stealing? Are they doing the job they were hired to do?

-Taking supplies from work- Taking blocks, straps, etc

-Taking ideas-I know people who only go to workshops so they can teach the same workshop themselves

-Stinginess-Is withholding knowledge, so that a student will come back, stealing?

-Blocking the natural ebb and flow of life-Is teaching a student a hardcore physical practice, who would benefit more from internal practices during this stage in their life, stealing?

-Not sharing-Is not sharing what you know about Yoga to someone who would benefit, stealing?

-Not giving when you have surplus and your neighbor has nothing-If a student shows up for class and they do not have the proper mat for practice and you have plenty mats and you don’t give them one to use, are you stealing?

-Controlling the economy in such a way that is is hard for working class people to get what they need for their families

-unfair prices and wages-Is not paying Yoga teachers a living wage stealing? How about not giving them raises every year? How about not paying them according to their knowledge or experience?

-dumping surplus foods instead of giving them to the hungry- Does a Yoga studio have a duty to give items from their lost and found or merchandise that does not sell to those who are in need?

-a few people holding most of the world’s wealth-Is it stealing for mega studios to come into town and take small studios, who don’t have the resources to do business on their level,  out of business? Is is stealing for Yoga studios to try to keep all the best teachers to themselves?

-spending money on war and going to the moon instead of education and hunger- Is it stealing for a studio to spend money tricking out their studio when the community is in need?

-Stealing health and happiness from others-Teaching students in a way that causes harm.

Lets look at a few of these using Satchidananda’s base lines. Remember that we all steal or use up resources from time to time. How are we giving back or balancing out our usage?

 If we do not show gratitude for the resources we use, we are stealing.

If a Yoga studio cannot afford to pay  teachers an appropriate wage, how can they show gratitude to their teachers? How can they give back to them?

If you go to a workshop and take their ideas and do your own workshop, how can you show appreciation to the person who give the original workshop? Can you give them credit for their ideas? Can you convey the information with integrity and be a blessing to the students who receive it?

If you mix some of what you learn in Power Yoga with Ashtanga, can you make a distinction between that knowledge and Pattabhi Jois’s knowledge? Can you present the knowledge without denigrating the Ashtanga method?

If you own a mega studio, can you give back to the community? Can you employee some of the people who lost their jobs?

Richness and monetary wealth are not necessarily connected

Recently, fellow blogger, Jean Marie Hackett, wrote a blog, Stop Glorifying Class Numberswhich illustrates how monetary wealth and richness are not necessarily related. How many times do we judge the success of something by how many people paid for it or by who paid attention to it? A Yogi finds richness in their activities because the activities are rooted in peace and love.  I make zero dollars writing this blog but I love it and it definitely adds richness to my life and to others.

 The “jewels” may or may not be monetary

Some of the non monetary jewels on the yogic path are increases in peace, happiness and contentment.

Why It is Important

Asteya keeps us from depleting ourselves and depleting others. We have all had days where we have felt like the world has taken everything from us. We all have days where we feel we have nothing left to give to our families, our employees, our students and to ourselves. When we feel depleted, we are no good to anyone.  We have to stop the cycle. If we all give back and show gratitude for what we have, only use what we need, and do not take what does not belong to us, we not only renew our wells, but the wells of those around us.

Imagine a world full of thriving, lit up and fulfilled people.  People who can spend their time and resources coming up with creative solutions to the world’s problems instead of recuperating from days spent mired in depleting activities.  Imagine if your employees were on fire to come to work because it recharged their energy instead of taking it. Asteya is the act of recharging each other and the earth. What a beautiful world that would be.


Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail shanna@ashtangayogaproject.com.

One Comment

  • jean marie

    Shane, I am so late on noticing this lovely mention of my blog in your amazing blog. I was away! for a while– forgive me. you do so much great work, i ended up reading your latests reads before this one. thanks for the mention, and not only that, but what you took from it. I get so much out of any writing i do, and i definitely do not make money for it. thanks for all you do. xoxox

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