Updated: Jun 5
In this article I offer practical tools and exercises to practice the second Yama: Satya, on and off your mat.
What are Yamas?
As we saw in the last article on the eight limbs of Yoga; in the traditional Yoga system the first aspect of practice is called Yama or the practice of relationship, which underscores the importance of connection to others as being integral to all expressions of Yoga. Yamas are ethical practices that guide us towards healthy, fulfilled relationship with others and in turn, ourselves.
The five yamas:
Ahiṃsā - non-violence, respect for life, kindness
Satya - truthfulness
Asteya - honesty, integrity
Brahmacharya - non-excess, moderation
Aparigraha - non-possessiveness
Truthfullness. The prefix "Sat" in Sanskrit can be interpreted in different ways, it means 'true nature' or 'true essence' but can also be translated as 'unchangeable' or 'that which has no distortion'. Therefore, more than the concept of not telling lies, satya means to stay true to our nature, to what is unchangeable within us.
We are energetic beings, therefore our actions, words and thoughts hold a lot of power. Satya teaches us to be in alignment with our inner world and with the first Yama, ahiṃsā - non-violence, kindness. Truthfulness can become a weapon and quickly transform into self-righteousness if not practiced alongside ahiṃsā.
How does satya manifest in our day-to-day?
- I wrongly accuse someone of having made a mistake, so I decide to apologise to them,
- Someone asks me a question about something I did and I decide to tell the truth,
- A situation makes me feel bad so I decide to listen to what I feel and remove myself from the situation.
Let me offer other ways we can practice satya:
- Through mindfulness, I start to become aware of a recurring thought when I see myself in a mirror: 'I look terrible' or 'I look exhausted', I decide to work on transforming my thought into 'I am an energetic being' or 'I am filled with love',
- I notice someone has very ugly teeth, I decide not to tell them because it will go against my true nature to make someone feel miserable for no real purpose,
- I really want to get into that headstand today but my shoulders feel tight and my body is tired, I decide to listen to my intuition and not practice the pose, even though my ego really wants to.
Again here, you can see that the practice of satya has nothing to do with factual truth but all to do with what feels closest to our true nature.
If practiced diligently, and alongside ahiṃsā, satya can transform our lives from deconstructing harmful beliefs to taking ownership of our feelings and emotions.