The second Yama, or external discipline in Patanjali´s eight-fold path of yoga is SATYA. Satya is literally translated as truthfulness:

¨For those grounded in truthfulness, every action and its consequences are imbued with truth.¨ This sounds like a lofty goal. Truthfulness is a much deeper conversation than just telling the truth about circumstances. We will touch on a few of these aspects. However, when applying Satya in your own life be gentle with yourself and others.

Upon first taking on this lofty goal, we work hard to speak and live the truth. We ask ourselves are we being truthful in our thoughts, our words and our actions. Over time and practice we notice that we begin to lose the patterns of exaggeration, omission and grandiosity. We become increasingly aware and uncomfortable when we do. We tend to begin externally, but as the layers of fabrication slowly leave, we become more intimate with our truth and the practice begins to work from the inside out. The practice of Satya requires us to be diligent. As with any skill we begin to learn, the more we do it the better we get at it. The more we catch ourselves in these half-truths, rationalizations and minimization and admit them, the easier it becomes. We develop a more mature, loving and non-violent (ahimsa) relationship with ourselves and with others.

Another example of Satya is when we let go of pretenses and show others who we really are. That long plane ride that we connected with a stranger and told them something we hadn’t shared with anyone before. Sacred moments when we come out of hiding; allow ourselves to really be seen, without trying to be someone we aren’t.

On the yoga mat, Satya is a practice in humility. A lot of us vacillate between ambition and pride. When we wish to achieve a pose it is so tempting to push, to let the ego step in and take us there. When we become ambitious we lose sight of the point of yoga practice. The opposite is also true; when we avoid the poses that we feel we aren’t ¨good¨ at, we let our opinions of ourselves dictate our reality. Instead of ambition or avoidance, we can use the light of truth. Humility is a balance between ambition and avoidance. We need not eradicate them from our lives; rather we can bring them into balance so that our postures are practiced in a healthy balance of both energies. Our poses become an embodiment of holding on and letting go, a commitment to humility and truth.

A common question about Satya has to do with brutal honesty. I feel like the word brutal says it all. We can again refer to the first Yama, Ahimsa here. Above all, we are cultivating nonviolence, kindness and compassion. However, honesty can be uncomfortable for both the person being honest and the one hearing it. We tend to think that our truth makes others wrong or bad. If someone doesn’t like a certain yoga class, it doesn’t mean that class or the teacher is bad. It may be uncomfortable for the teacher to hear and for the person who didn’t like the class to say.

Here is a skillful exercise to consider before speaking; We can ask ourselves these classic questions:

  • Is it really true?
  • Is it necessary?
  • Is it kind?
  • Is it helpful?

It is important to remember that as with all these practices, Satya is a process; one we will not always be perfect at. Living authentically and honestly provides great freedom; one gentle and loving breath at a time.

¨When the practitioner is firmly established in the practice of the truth, his words become so potent that whatever he says comes to realization.¨
-Yoga Sutras