This summer at In Fine Feather Yoga, all the students enrolled in our 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training course took the summer months off. Which meant they were out of the classroom and putting their training into purpose and action. They had a number of assignments and self study projects to complete throughout the summer, one of which was 5 hours of volunteering within the community. The intention of this exercise was to bring the moral principals of the Yamas and Niyamas into the volunteer work they did with an organization or charity that was not related to yoga. Specifically, looking to explore and exercise these principle to help guide them through the experience of volunteering. We felt really inclined to share Kelsi’s Karma Yoga exercise because it is the embodiment of how the Yoga practice should be lived and explored everyday to enrich our personal growth but also our connections to other people. If you aren't very familiar with the Yamas and Niyamas, you will still love this article, but we've also provided you with a link HERE to do some background reading if you feel included to know more about the philosophy.
A big thank you to Sara for allowing us to share her experience with the IFF community!
My Relationship to Asteya
I currently volunteer at the YWCA Hamilton Senior 55+ Active Living Centre. My volunteer work here is a directly result of my contemplation of the yamas and niaymas during Yoga Teacher Training. I came to this organization through my intent to practice aestya, or non-stealing. I’d like to share my story of how I got to this place: I came to yoga teacher training feeling restless and discontent. I had a hard time coming to terms with why. If I was to look at myself through the eyes of an observer, I would see a privileged life. I am married to the most loving and supportive partner and together we own a house and have a family of adorable cats. I have a career directly in my field of study, and not only is it fulfilling and rewarding, but I am paid benefits and have a pension. I travel and hike and camp and garden and surround myself with family and friends who love me and constantly build me up. I am living the millennial dream.
And yet, for many months leading up to YTT, this relentless voice told me I was not enough and that, in order to be enough, I needed to take more. I spent about a year almost obsessively searching for and applying to what seemed like better, more important and impressive careers. I’d get some interviews but never did I get the job. I also applied to volunteer boards and committees that I thought would look impressive. I wasn’t successful in these either. This was hard on my sense of self-worth, and further perpetuated the illusion that if I took more, I could be more.
Connecting it back to Asteya
Asteya is not only concerned with stealing things that are tangible, but also stealing emotional, cultural, and social space. As a privileged, white female living the millennial dream, I take up a lot of this kind of space. Yet, through contemplation, I realized that my discontentment came from this compulsion to take up more space, and to ensure my spot at the centre of it. This was unhealthy and led to feelings of inadequacy, jealously, judgement, and competition. Instead of focusing my energies on taking up space for myself, I am now more mindful to consciously and thoughtfully give space to others who need it more than I do. This has become my practice of asteya.
I stopped applying to jobs and impressive committees, and instead applied to volunteer with the YWCA Hamilton Seniors 55+ Active Living Centre. I help run the outreach programming for the Senior Outreach Community Connections program, where older adults living in long-term care facilities all over the city are transported to the YWCA for a morning of singing, dancing, games, and other interactive programming. Older adults living in long term care facilities often feel isolated and forgotten. This program aims to connect older adults with others, to explore new things in a supportive environment, and to have fun.
I will also be delivering my own programming at the centre in Fall 2019, where I will lead conversation-based sessions on different aspects of local Hamilton history focused on memory-sharing and storytelling. In these programs, older adults will be at the centre, where they will have the opportunity to share, reminisce, and connect to one another. My role will be to facilitate and to listen – to create space for others. I do this work to engage members of the community who do not hold adequate social, cultural, and emotional space. I do this work to create a supportive space where older adults feel heard, appreciated, and valued. This is my practice of asteya.