Perhaps one of the toughest lessons to teach young children is the concept of Asteya, a part of the Yama limb of yoga. Asteya means to take nothing that does not belong to you. As a teacher it seems that I speak with at least one student a week after some recess drama centering on taking something that isn’t theirs. I’m sure parents deal with the idea of Asteya more than I do. J Fortunately for us there is a wealth of classic and modern children’s literature to choose from to help our child(ren) with the life lessons offered in this concept.
Jan Brett is a beloved children’s author, a favorite of adults and children alike. Her beautifully illustrated story, Hedgie’s Surprise is a wonderful way to begin a discussion with your child or students on Asteya. The story’s character of Henny keeps getting her eggs stolen by a gnome-like creature called Tomten. Tomten wants the eggs for his breakfast but Henny needs her eggs to start her brood of chicks. With Hedgie’s help, Henny teaches Tomten a lesson and he leaves her and her eggs alone. On the mat it would be a lot of fun to ask your little ones to create their own poses. Perhaps you could ask them to invent poses like “chicken”, “egg”, “hedgehog”, “nest” or even “Tomten”. This activity not only promotes movement but also calls upon some creativity and silliness (which is always good). Off the mat a discussion of relating how Tomten’s actions hurt Henny to our own choices of taking things that don’t belong to us could be very enlightening. Hedgie’s Surprise would is best suited for preschool to around third grade aged yogis.
The young yogis out there may want to explore the idea of Asteya with a book by National Book Award winner Pete Hautman, How to Steal a Car. This book is a little heavier in subject matter as the main character acts out and tries to find out who she is by stealing cars. However, it does provide some great opportunities for discussion with your tween or middle school students. Some off the mat discussion topics may center on why people may take things that don’t belong to them and better ways to get what you’re really searching for. On the mat you and your young yogi could try a few heart-opening poses, like camel, and some confidence building poses, like tree. As a side note, the book also touches on a number of other aspects within the Yama limb. This book would be well-suited for 10-13 year olds.
Teaching children and young adults about Asteya, taking nothing that does not belong to you, can be tough. However, there are many great resources out there to utilize when looking for ways to start the discussion or drive home a point. I hope you enjoy using literature and yoga as ways to educate, communicate, and have fun with your kids.
Live Life Awesomely,