The Yamas: A Blissology Perspective; Asteya

Asteya is much more subtle than sticking items in your backpack without paying for them at the grocery store.

In this modern era, because it’s easy to copy the intellectual property of another, does it make it right?

When I moved to Santa Cruz in 2015, I started to meet people in the yoga community.

I wanted to find a good yoga class. While having lunch with a new teacher I met, I asked her, “Do you have any recommendations for a good yoga class I should go to here in town?”

Her answer was, “I mostly do a home practice but I try and get out to a class once a month to find fresh ideas to steal.”

It was said in a very joking way with a smile, but it affected me.

Oddly, the next day I met another yoga teacher in town. We had coffee and I asked the same question. I was shocked that I got exactly the same answer. Except this time the teacher I met said they like to go to other people’s classes once a month not to steal ideas but to “borrow” ideas.

Does yoga belong to everyone truly? Does music belong to everyone? How about science? Should we credit the discoveries of others or just say that science belongs to everyone?

What the yama of Asteya is saying to me is to dive deep inside and listen to my internal moral compass.

In my case, I look at some influential teachers I had in my life and I always try and credit them.

I could easily “borrow” their ideas and pass them off as my own, just as easily as I can download a movie or song and not pay the artist.

I can justify my actions and say, “oh music belongs to everyone, there is no original music, it’s all just the same notes but people just rearrange it differently so why should I pay them?”

But we need to step into the shoes of another person. I work often with my friend Taz who makes music and I could easily use his songs in my yoga videos.

But I know he is a new dad with many bills to pay and it doesn’t sit right with me to simply borrow his music. He offers it to me for free but I always try him pay him what I can. He jas told me how much he appreciates this.

In the same way, is all yoga truly the same as other progressions and innovations?

When I studied yoga with a teacher named Gioia Irwin a few decades ago, it was different than other approaches and her specific way in which she presented techniques worked.

Now when I am teaching, I have a choice: I can justify not crediting her for her work because “yoga belongs to everyone.” However, my internal compass tells me this is Steya, or stealing.

So I painstakingly mention her name to my students almost daily. This feels right to me.

Likewise, I have worked hard to re-vision how we do yoga and come up with different tools, techniques and innovations.

I used to pretend I was an “open-source” dude, meaning these ideas don’t belong to anyone so let them go.

But the fact is, when I would see my students sharing the same ideas i worked on for years of my life without crediting me, I realized that a part of me did feel hurt.

It was exactly the same feeling you have when someone steals a material possession. Exactly. I couldn’t lie to myself.

Fresh ideas in this industry are currency.

By contrast, my friend Bernie Clark emailed me when he was writing a book to check about a quote that I had said. He wanted to credit this quote to the right person. It felt right to me that he acknowledges where the quote came from.

In the same way, I have often quoted Bernie in my work for things that I am borrowing or sharing from his work with others. To me this is my interpretation of non-stealing, Asteya.

I want to credit any teaching I share to the people who came up with this knowledge.

If you read a scientific textbook, there is a painstaking effort to footnote where the information cited comes from.

Contrast this with my friends I met at the café in Santa Cruz who go to class once a month to steal fresh ideas for their classes.

Relating back to music, it’s easy to download movies and songs. But can you put yourself in the shoes of another? If you were trying to feed your family by making music and people downloaded it without paying, how would you feel?

Tune into your moral compass, see things from the perspective of the person you are “borrowing” from and live accordingly.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated.

Eoin Finn