Truthfulness On + Off The Mat
(by Danielle Schubert)
Truth is often in the eye of the beholder, a gray area that is interpreted by each individual. Discerning what is "true" or "right" is often based upon our history, the story we tell ourselves in our mind and our influencers. Truth exists in a myriad of shades and colors, but only we choose what truth really means. Your truth may not be the truth of your neighbors, and that is okay.
Satya - truthfulness or non-lying - is the second of the Yamas, an external code of conduct. In its broadest scope, Satya asks us to be open and honest, allowing our interaction with the world to be authentic. No one enjoys being lied to or misguided (unless consciously or subconsciously we are sold on the “ignorance is bliss” path), and Satya provides a steady guideline to navigate a challenging and changing world.
But what about the flip side of the coin? Although classically referring to how we interact with others around us, Satya can also be viewed as being truthful to self. When the truth is too much to bear, we often turn our heads the other way.
I know that I have lied to myself more than others have lied to me, as I attempted to pad discomfort, struggle, pain and even loss. Sooner or later, truth emerges and we must confront our stories and rise.
Often we can shy away from truth on the mat, for the conversations we have in our own heads during practice are rather honest mirrors of how we deal with the world when we step out of the studio. During practice, we should feel free to modify a pose or take the permission to pause (TRUTH in the BODY) or to be curious, close our eyes and trust ourselves (TRUTH in SELF).
What we learn about ourselves on the mat (Svadhyaya, self-study) is the invaluable tool that allows us to walk out of the studio and into our day living, speaking, breathing our TRUTH or Satya.
The sweat and the breath is liberating, but more often than not, we don't come to Yoga to get good at Yoga, but we come to Yoga to get good at life. Be unafraid of Satya, for when your gut, heart and voice align, you will walk in your truth, tall and proud.
Looking for even more ways to incorporate Satya into your yoga practice and daily life?
Each Yama and Niyama has poses (asanas) and hand gestures or shapes (mudras) associated with it as well as mantras (Sanskrit phrases or prayers). Try practicing the pose or the mudra while thinking about Satya or while repeating or chanting the mantra.
Crescent lunge is the pose linked to Satya. As you stand in crescent lunge, feel the stability and strength in your lower body; press back through the heel of the extended leg and root into the foot of your front leg, gradually lowering your front thigh parallel with the floor. Feel the strength in this pose and the empowerment as the lower body roots and the upper body soars skyward. Feel the strength and stability in your conviction. Stand firmly in your truth.
Kali Mudra is the hand shape (mudra) associated with Satya. Draw your palms together and interlace your fingers. Release your index fingers up and pressed together along their length. The index fingers represent the sword of the fierce goddess Durga. The goddess of Durga represents the empowerment that enables us to stand in our truth, the index fingers represent her sword that slays illusions. To make this a moving meditation, lift your hands overhead as you inhale; as you exhale, lower your hands to heart level and visualize your sword cutting through whatever causes you to be inauthentic. Inhale to lift the arms, exhale and lower the hands to heart level as your chant the mantra “Sat nam” or “my name is truth” (the mantra associated with Satya). Repeat this mantra while holding crescent lunge, while practicing the mudra, or if you’re feeling challenged in your convictions, your authenticity – in your truths. Explore Satya in mind, body, spirit and see where it takes you.
More ways to incorporate Satya into your day, week and month…
Week One: Notice how you start your day. What are your first words and actions to those around you, be it with family, friends, colleagues or the amazing people that serve our community? Can you treat each one with living, truthful kindness? A smile. Direct eye contact. Your actions can change their day in a second.
Week Two: Every time an uncomfortable situation arises, regardless of how big or small, can you be unafraid of the outcome and still find your truth? Truth can be told in gentle, compassionate ways. Sometimes truth can be as simple as saying "No" with kindness, or a warmly welcomed and genuine compliment. We offer 110% of ourselves and release the expectations of our actions (Abhyasa-Vairagya, a subject for a different time).
Week Three: Notice the spaces where you may be telling yourself a false story. Whose truth do you hear in your head when a challenge arises? Is it yours or your influencers? Give yourself the permission to let go of what does not serve you anymore, even if it's your own story. We are capable, but are we willing?
Week Four: Meditate on your last month about speaking your truth. Has the tension in your body softened? Maybe there is more space in between your thoughts and a deeper sense of connectivity to the world around you. When we discover that there is no part of us we need to hide, then we can move forward with honesty and embody truth in our actions and words; we begin to free ourselves and others from suffering.