December 15, 2011

Integrating Yoga and Lamaze: How the Ethical Practice of the Yamas and Niyamas Relate to Pregnancy and Childbirth. Part 3 – Asteya.

Asteya – Non-stealing

When we think of stealing, we think of pickpockets, breaking and entering or eating someone else’s lunch out of the office fridge.  Although Asteya refers to stealing of that nature, it also refers to not coveting, nor hoarding, as well as not obstructing other people’s desires in life (emotional stealing).  In part 3, we’ll take the approach to pregnancy and birth from both the perspectives of the care provider and the pregnant mother.

When we have a relationship of mutual respect, we practice Asteya.  The pregnant woman is stealing time, when she is late to her prenatal appointment.  She steals time from not only the care provider, but also from the mom in the waiting room who’s got the next appointment.  She steals from her care provider by being dishonest with them (by not practicing Satya).  How?  If she declines to tell her care provider about symptoms she’s having, foods she’s eating, or other substances she’s ingesting then she steals her care providers’ ability to care for her effectively.

Used with permission of the artist, Amy Swagman

Pregnant women do it to each other (ok, women do it to each other) – We compare ourselves, our births, our parenting skills, our babies, etc.  We look at how another mother is doing and we wish we could have her (insert adjective here).  We covet her way of dealing with her children, how “thin” she looks while pregnant, her seemingly easy pregnancy, her natural birth, etc.  Rather, to practice Asteya, we need to be comfortable in our own bodies.  Jealousy causes us to steal from others because we treat them differently.  We steal from ourselves because we can’t find the joy in our own situation; we are too busy seeing how others have it “better”.

Asteya is not about being competitive, or trying to get the best of someone.  When we “win” that argument, we’ve stolen happiness and pride from another person.  We are closed off to the new perspective of another person because we cling too tightly to our own beliefs.  We have to trust the Truth within, so that we may truly hear what others are saying to us with an open heart.  Remember, pregnancy, birth and parenting are not competitions.

Asteya also means not hoarding.  This isn’t like “Hoarders” on TLC, which is a disease; it’s more like “Extreme Couponing”.  Acquiring things you don’t need, sometimes to the detriment of others.  We do it with material goods – registering for EVERYTHING at Babies R Us, taking as many free samples as we can, etc.  How many outfits will that little one wear before they grow out of them?  On the flip side Asteya means being happy with what you have and only using what you need.  It’s a green attitude towards material goods.

Our other perspective – the care providers:  The concept of stealing time applies here too.  When our providers are late to our appointments, they steal our time.  When they cut our appointments short because they don’t have enough time to answer all of our questions they steal from us as well.  They steal piece of mind and comfort because we don’t have all the information we need.

By not offering us full disclosure on tests, procedures and medications our care providers steal our ability to make strong, confident choices.  Here, they are pushing their beliefs and not being open to those of the pregnant mother.  Care providers can steal the faith a mother has in her self and her abilities by quoting her statistics that may not apply, by setting artificial limits – “If you aren’t fully dilated in an hour, we’ll give you a c-section.”, by saying “Looks like you have a small pelvis.” Or “Your baby is going to be really big!”  All of these things steal our confidence in ourselves, they steal our strength and they steal our faith in our bodies.

Care providers can practice Asteya by practicing respect for their patients.  They can provide full explanations, offer appropriate choices, not set artificial time limitations and truly listen to a mother’s questions and concerns.  Care providers can respect their patients, and offer gentle guidance towards safe appropriate choices.

To practice Asteya we must look at the broader picture of how our words and our deeds affect others.  By practicing Ahimsa, when talking to others we avoid stealing from them.  By practicing Satya, we avoid stealing from others.  All of the Yamas and Niyams are interconnected.  One flows into the next, just as pregnancy flows into parenthood.

Sat Nam.

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