2nd Yama: Satya explained

I'd love to make you more curious about what YOGA has to offer, more then your weekly yogaclass, on and off the mat. The ancient practice of yoga can RELATE TO and HELP YOU in your day-to-day life. The content of this blog is meant to inspire you and to inform you on concepts from the yoga. In some blogs I'm  writing from my personal experience, others are compiled from existing texts.

By Barbara Klarenbeek



Satya, the second of the 10 Yamas and Niyamas in the The Yoga Sutra’s of Patanjali, means truthfulness.

The yamas and niyamas provide ways in which we can not only build a better relationship with the world around us, but with ourselves too…. And if we can’t be honest with ourselves first, we cannot really be honest in any other part of life. 

We often identify completely with our emotions and irrational thoughts; ‘I am a bad person because of this….’ or ‘I’m not good enough because of that….’

When we let our mind run away with us, we define ourselves by how we feel at that very moment or by conditioning from our past instead of seeing things how they really are.

When we start to practice satya we notice just how confused we have become about truth. For example, we may say with absolute certainty that an ex-partner is selfish. But were we to ask that ex-partner’s new spouse whether that were true—well … she would likely say how kind and selfless that partner is. Or, we may vehemently replay thoughts of how terribly a parent treated us, but years later, when reconciled, we will speak compassionately of that parent instead. Truth, by its very nature, is absolute. There is only one truth and it does not change. Everything else is just opinion.

That discernment between truth and opinion can change our world. Instead of taking our thoughts as concrete, we start to loosen our attachment to them.

We begin to disagree with our opinions. And we begin to observe the words that fall from our lips with more clarity.

We also begin to understand why others would disagree with our opinions and this increases our compassion towards others.

Acting with compassion for others is important. The Yoga sutras advise that if being honest in that moment is likely to cause harm to another, then it is best not to say or do anything at all…. Indian philosophy is contextual – meaning the Indians actually often change their standpoints and morals according to each situation, which can be very confusing – so if the situation calls for it, remember the saying ‘sometimes it is better to be kind than to be right’.

Observing the motives behind our actions – ‘will it truly serve the other person, or am I doing this because of a need to prove something or gain something?’ is a useful tool to help us apply both satya and ahimsa to our situations. 

Each situation we come across offers us the opportunity to see the truth if we are open to it. A daily practice of slowing down, taking a couple of deep breaths and observing things as they really are can help us move closer towards a state of peace and stillness in the mind. 

Once we know we are not our thoughts, there’s a little sigh of relief as a bigger gap is created between who we think we are sometimes (the ego), and who we really are (the atman). 

A daily practice we can use to help us un-identify with irrational thoughts, is to simply take some time observing each thought as it arises, watching it as it passes without getting caught up in it. Learning and accepting that all emotions and situations come and go and are in fact not unchangeable or true, helps us come to terms with the fact that life isn’t as complicated as it might seem sometimes….

Satya on the mat

Practicing asana with satya in mind can be very similar to applying the first yama ahimsa to our physical practice. How many times have you ignored or pushed past an injury or limitation just to get into that yoga posture? Even if it’s only staying in a challenging pose a few breaths more than our bodies really needed to, it’s this dishonesty with ourselves that can often cause physical pain…. 

Our yoga practice is here to serve our bodies and minds, not harm our joints and ligaments – so each time we get on the mat it’s important to have complete honesty with what we actually need in that very moment.

On a physical and emotional level, we change all the time, so fixating upon one way of practicing isn’t always going to work out. When we can get the ego-mind out of the way (you know, the one that tells us we should be able to do headstand, or we should be able to meditate without getting distracted….) this offers us a way to see past our conditioned, ever-changing and un-true ways of thinking, and uncover a more pure and beneficial way of practicing and treating ourselves on all levels. 

One very simple way of observing truth in our practice is by paying closer attention to the breath. The breath is such an important factor in asana practice, but one of the most important aspects is that it tells us when to back off…. If the breath is strained or shallow, it’s likely that the body isn’t happy with what it’s being asked to do - so even though it might hurt our ego a little bit, honesty requires listening to the breath in every moment and working with it. The breath is telling you you’re ok or to back off.

Our practice grows as we grow, and going to the edge safely in our asana practice is all about being honest with ourselves in every moment.


Bron:  www.wanderlust.com , www.ekhartyoga.com