How honest and truthful are you? What do these words mean to you anyway? And is it even possible to be 100% truthful 100% of the time? Read on to discover how to make honesty the best policy (without losing any friends along the way)!
Welcome to satya! The practice of truthfulness, the second yama, and the third article in our series on yamas and niyamas. On the face of it, truth is a pretty beautiful world. But being truthful isn’t always as easy as it sounds. According to Satchinanda’s translation of the Sutras, all nature loves an honest person – and the more honest we become, the more fearless we are. According to another translation(Matthew Remski’s insightful contemporary read), honesty allows for a clear sharing of how things work, and so truth relies on us all being truthful.
So, how truthful are you being in your life? Let’s take a look at some of the ways we may (or may not) be practising satya both on and off the mat.
Using Satya On The Mat
Being truthful with ourselves on the mat requires a certain level of awareness to begin with. If you’re not aware that your hips are tight, or if you don’t notice how your head pulls to one side in Savāsana (relaxation pose), then it’s instantly going to be difficult for you to make a judgement call about whether you’re ready to try Sīrāsana (headstand) or not. Even the most dedicated yoga practitioner has days when they feel ‘stuck in their head’. So how can we begin to cultivate the attitude of satya in our practice on days when we can’t quite feel into our bodies? Try asking yourself these 3 questions:
- Where do I feel flexible, where do I feel tight?
Lying to ourselves about the state of our bodies can equal injury. And injury equals not being able to practise. Enough said.
- Am I feeling stable?
Subject to popular belief, yoga is about more than being bendy (luckily for me). Stability is one of the key components to a steady, consistent and safe asana practise.
- Do I need to use props?
If you go to an Iyengar studio, chances are you will see props galore – belts, bricks, bricks, chairs, sometimes even ropes hanging off the wall or ceiling. Seriously. Now, if someone knew a thing or two about āsana, it was Iyengar. If the Iyengi’s use props, I’m happy to use props.
Moving Satya Off The Mat
Practising truthfulness on the mat is one thing. Off the mat, involving other people, is another. Sometimes being honest is hard. We all know when we need to tell the truth (being questioned by the police for example). But since we’re, hopefully, not being questioned by the police all that often, the challenge of Satya can often come in more subtle – even more mundane – ways:
- Telling your partner you’re not happy about something in your relationship
This is a toughie. You don’t want to hurt their feelings, or cause a big row. But this thing is important to you. Suppressing our emotions is a definite no-no, but it takes courage – and compassion – to be truthful with the ones we love most. Trying getting the setting right, and choose the right time (even if that means making it a date in the diary). Take a deep breath – or three. Remember that you love this person. And go for it.
- Being truthful at work
Use your discernment here. Maybe the project you’ve just been given is a disaster waiting to happen, or if your colleague leaves their dirty dishes in the sink one more time you’re going to scream. These might well be your truthful feelings! Do you have to vocalise every single one of your thoughts, or can you let some of them just slide on by? Patañjali wants us to be truthful – no one said anything about speaking every truth!
- Finding a £10 note sitting in the cash machine
Ask yourself now – what would you do? I know my answer. When I was 17, I left £10 behind in the machine . . . and someone actually handed it in to the bank. At that time, I seriously needed that money, and I will never forget the honesty and kindness of that mystery stranger. Sometimes a small act of kindness undertaken by allowing ourselves to be lead by our hearts can have much bigger impacts that we may ever know.
Taking Satya From Here
Ask yourself again now, how honest do you think you are? Has the answer changed from when you start reading this article? I have a challenge for you – and I warn you now it may not be easy! Can you spend a whole day being completely truthful – to yourself, and to those around you? I dare you!
If you can, try this challenge on a day when you go to a yoga class, and allow yourself to be really mindful and observe how your mind responds to the challenge of honesty. Let us know how you get on in the comments below – and tell us, is it even possible to be 100% truthful in the course of 24 hours? We’d love to hear from you.