The second yama put forth by Patanjali is Satya. Like nearly ever spiritual teaching, there are layers and different ways to look at how to practice and apply this yama. Satya means “truth”.
The most obvious layer is the act of telling the truth. As with all the yamas and niyamas, there’s the act of being honest with others and with ourselves. An outright lie would be a violation of this practice, whether that lie is told to someone else or we hide from the truth of what we’re thinking and doing. This is what it means to have “integrity”, or doing the right thing, even if no one is watching, is being “truthful” in how we conduct ourselves.
A third level is to be in alliance with Truth, a capital “T”. This is the most subtle. One of the human factors that make it difficult to practice this yama, is judgement. Though we become aware of when and how we judge, and maybe our practice is to begin to release judgements of ourselves and others, there will always be some judgement. It is a small judgement to have a preference for vanilla ice cream over chocolate, and a larger judgement when we declare a person is “bad” because of an act they committed. When turned on ourselves, we can judge what we say or do, or don’t say or do, as “wrong” or “right” instead of aligning those words and actions with honesty. It takes time and vigilance to notice the ways in which our judgements keep us stuck in a habit, or prevent us from accepting things how they are.
Our preference for a pose is a way to look at Satya. We like it, so we want to hang out in it, to do it a lot. If we don’t like it, we avoid it. Our judgement blocks the truth of the pose: to touch our toes, to lengthen our hamstrings, “to the extent that we can move into the pose”. By avoiding the pose, we prevent ourselves from receiving what is revealed through the pose. If we accept that we can’t touch our toes, release our judgement of not liking the pose, and allow it to be how it is, then Truth (with a capital “T”) may be revealed. If we only do what we like, then we discover how many times a day we become upset or frustrated because what we judge as “not likable” shows up. The more stuff we decide we don’t like, don’t have a preference for, the more time we spend away from quiet stillness. And that’s fine, if that’s what you choose to do. No judgement here 🙂 But as another option, recognize where our judgements are, where we’re not being truthful with ourselves or others, and begin to experiment with “being with” those things that aren’t aligned with our preferences. In the end, it’s alright to have preferences. It allows us to choose which shirt to wear, what food to eat, which people to spend time with.
All of the yamas and niyamas invite the yoga student to become aware of how they interact with themselves and the world. The more we becomes aware, the more that habits come to light and allow us to ask, is this serving me? When we are in Truth, we are integrated. Our thoughts, words, and deeds are aligned. There may be preferences and judgements, or we may say we are practicing Satya when we say one thing yet do another.
I’ve written a poem about Satya, and all the yamas and niyamas, and compiled them into a project titled Yogis All: A Journey of Transformation, Volume I. You’re welcome to view it on my website: www.myjoyenterprises.com
How do you recognize and release judgements? Are there areas in your life in which you think you need to be more truthful? Leave a comment and share your thoughts on Satya.