This is part three of a series exploring the ten principles of yoga philosophy, also known as the yamas and niyamas. Come and explore this fascinating ancient wisdom with me. Experience how things start manifesting automatically when you start implementing these principles into your daily life.
Whether you consider yourself spiritual or not, and whether you practice yoga postures or not, these are all ways in which we can help ourselves and the world around us to be a better place.
Satya, Because You Want To Be Honest
Satya is a Sanskrit word that means ‘truthfulness’.
Etymologically, satya derives from ‘sat’, the present participle of the verb ‘to be’, meaning ‘which is, which exists.’
Leaving the wickedness of Sanskrit having a single word to designate both reality and truth, an interesting topic for the book I’m writing.
In this blog post, I would like to zoom in a little deeper on how the simple notion of satya can influence your life.
The definition of satya here is defined as: Being truthful, the act of being honest with yourself and not aiming to cheat others for your own gain or to discredit them’.
Satya is one of the 10 yamas and niyamas, also referred to as 10 principles of yoga philosophy. These principles are nothing like commandments or rules.
You can consider them as mere suggestions that honor the way a wise person lives.
There is no penalty as such for breaking it as we can experience and investigate the effects of our own actions. In other words: If you want to be the best version of yourself, why would you even think about lying to someone? It’s not because you can not. It’s because you don’t want to.
When examining truthfulness, we must remember that ahimsa, our first principle of non-violence, remains the foundation of all yogic philosophy and doing no harm to anyone involved should always be top of mind.
When touching the principle of truthfulness in workshops or on my yoga retreats, lots of people are instantly triggered. The same might happen right here with you…
I’ll start with three very simple questions…
- How honest are you?
- Who gets to see the real you?
- What was your last lie?
- What is it that you really need, right now?
Adopting a truthful attitude
Personally, non-lying was one of my most intriguing learning curves. In modern-day society, it seems to be extremely difficult to speak our truth. It’s as if we almost expect to be lied to and take it with a smile. We lie to our children, our parents, our colleagues, our boss, friends, partner and usually find brilliant excuses to do so.
Why do we lie?
From hiding an affair to that little text message ‘explaining’ why you’re late.
Research has shown that the average adult lies about ten times a day. We all lie, but not all lies are the same.
We lie to protect and promote ourselves, to impact others and sometimes we really do not know why we lie.
- I don’t want to hurt their feelings.
- What will they think of me when they find out the truth about me?
- She can’t handle the truth.
- It’s better for him if he doesn’t know.
- I can do without the drama when she finds out.
- It’s not really lying, it’s just bending the truth a little.
If any of these thoughts sound familiar, you have been lying. I could explain every single one of these thoughts to you but in fairness, there is no real need to do so.
We know when we lie and when we give it a second of thought, we also know there is usually no need whatsoever.
Yoga is Union
One of the definitions of yoga can be ‘union’ and it is exactly this union that we all strive for.
More connection, more union with the people we love, with the people we work with and maybe even with strangers.
By lying, we will accomplish the exact opposite. One lie leads to another instead of to more bonding.
Some people ask me if not telling the truth is lying.
My answer is usually quite short: When it is, you will feel it. When something is not entirely aligned in your body and mind, and you don’t feel well when not telling something, it could have the same meaning as lying.
In all 10 blog posts on the yamas and the niymas, I will also zoom in on how we can implement them on the yoga mat.
Lying in your yoga class
Our bodies are incredibly smart.
If there’s discomfort in daily movements and chores, the body will find a way to ‘go around’ the painful areas and avoid more discomfort. In yoga, we are usually invited to pause and investigate when it becomes uncomfortable.
If you’re very stiff for whatever reason and you start stressing and stretching tissue for the first time, discomfort might be the word. At that moment, we need to be very honest with ourselves and not have the same flight-reaction to ‘go around’ the discomfort.
We need to be super alert as well to not injure ourselves and be honest when hearing a cue about ‘our appropriate edge’.
Before just settling in for your weekly class on autopilot, ask yourself: What kind of class do I really need right now? In most yoga styles, you can decide how intense you make your ‘yogic workout’.
Challenge yourself to experiment!
People who always do yin probably need more strong and vigorous yoga practices and people who only do spicy classes are advised to bring in some more yin yoga.
And if you always do the same practice, you will also get the same result, as in: No ‘real’ result…
Purely physical, you need to ‘train’ different muscle groups. Why do they have leg and arms days in gyms? This is exactly the same in a yoga asana practice.
“Satyam bruyat priyam bruyat.”
Speak what is true, speak what is pleasant.
Tell the truth but say it nicely.
If you’re serious about making lasting changes in your life, than I have a little assignment for you.
Be honest this week.
Every time you lie. Be aware of it.
Check if this lie was necessary or if in some way, the truth might have been possible too.
That’s it! Good luck!
Thanks for reading, I would love to hear your feedback and experiences with satya in your daily life! If you have any questions, don’t hesitate asking via email.
Rachel Bonkink is not your ordinary yoga teacher.
She holds a Masters Degree in Commercial Sciences and she can look back at a strong corporate career as an operational director. She has been a life coach for over 10 years and her company is seen globally as one of the leading yoga retreat companies. From the very start of her own yoga journey, the yoga philosophy resonated more than any asana, or posture, ever did. In the past 10 years, she has read, studied and continues to follow at least two to three trainings per year to deepen her knowledge on yoga and meditation. In between her retreats, Rachel can be found by the beach in Morocco, where she writes, studies and enjoys life, doing the things that she loves the most.