Here is a series of how to talk about the teachings of yoga philosophy with kids. Quick recap on the framework of the 8 limbs of yoga outlined at the end of this post.
Asteya means non-stealing. It means not taking things that don't belong to us. This can include physical objects and also encompasses time, resources, energy, and more. This moral tenet asks us to refrain from stealing from others, stealing from the earth, stealing from ourselves.
Toddlers are prone to want what others have and will sometimes forcefully take things away from others. It's natural and it's the caregiver's role to teach children how to control these impulses. When my son Harlem was around 1, he had a tactic of taking things away from other kids and then sitting on them so they wouldn't be able to retaliate. He's outgrown this but he's still learning to share.
The fairy tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears is an excellent story to use when talking about asteya with children. Here is my rendition to Harlem and our discussion afterwards. As you'll see, he's a little distracted with stickers throughout my story, but he's definitely listening. We've told the story over and over again to him and continue to reinforce the idea of not stealing from others.
As he gets older, we'll expand on this moral lesson by talking about what it means to steal non-object things like energy, how we can be thoughtful about the earth's resources, and how we can give back to others with acts of charity.
While I think I would naturally be talking about and teaching these things to Harlem, I appreciate having the framework of yoga's ethics to guide me in deliberate dialog with him. My yoga practice has become living and considering all 8 limbs of yoga. And as a yoga teacher and parent, I want to continue exploring this philosophy with my students and son. Thanks for reading and watching!
Quick Overview of Yoga Philosophy:
1. Yamas: 5 ethical standards on how to conduct ourselves
a. Ahimsa: non-harming
b. Satya: truthfulness
c. Asteya: non-stealing
d. Brahmacharya: self-restraint
e. Aparigraha: non-greed
2. Niyamas: 5 self-disciplines on how to take care of ourselves
a. Saucha: cleanliness
b. Santosha: contentment
c. Tapas: heat
d. Svadhyaya: self-study
e. Isvara pranidhana: surrender/devotion to the divine
3. Asana: physical postures to prepare the body to sit still for meditation
4. Pranayama: breathing techniques to steady the flow of energy and prepare for meditation
5. Pratyahara: sensory withdrawal in order to direct our attention to the internal
6. Dharana: concentration on a single point
7. Dhyana: meditation, being aware without a single focus, mind has quieted
8. Samadhi: enlightenment, connection with the divine or self-realization
Additional resources to learn about the Yamas and Niyamas:
- The Yamas and Niyamas: Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice by Deborah Adele
- Yoga FAQ by Richard Rosen
- Inside the Yoga Sutras: A Comprehensive Sourcebook for the Study & Practice of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras
- The Heart of Yoga by T.K.V. Desikachar
- The Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali: A New Translation with Commentary by Chip Hartranft