The last time we waded in the waters of yoga philosophy, we had a look at ahimsa. However, there are other yamas–or universal practices–worth diving into. The second yama, for example, is called satya or “truth.” But what is the principle of satya?
From the get go, practicing satya entails practicing honesty. This entails being honest in your relationships, observing transparency and having integrity in your work, and also being true to yourself. The latter may be the most difficult of all, but your yoga and meditation practice can help you take steps towards being more truthful to oneself.
Here’s how to practice satya:
1. Listen to your body.
Sometimes, we push our bodies to our limits and ignore the needs of our bodies. For example, you might have initially planned out a tough workout in your day. But hours before the workout, you may have started to feel tired or fatigued.
Choosing to rest or opting for more gentler movement is not a sign of weakness–it simply means being truthful and being in tune with your body’s efforts to communicate with you.
In your yoga practice, moreover, your instructor may give a variety of options–ranging from difficult variations to simpler modifications. If your body is up for a challenge, then try the former. However, it’s also completely fine to stick to simpler, much more accessible movements and postures.
Communicating with your body is an example of both ahimsa and satya, of both compassion and truth.
2. Feel your emotions.
As we grow older, we start to push our emotions away and shield ourselves from our feelings. This can be for a number of reasons–either because of personal experiences and trauma, or simply sociocultural attitudes that you’ve adapted.
Either way, perhaps ask yourself: When was the last time I allowed myself to feel? And not just sadness or grief, but actual joy and happiness?
Tuning in with your emotions is a good way to articulate and assert your true feelings over anxiety and stress (which can often leave us feeling confused). And surprisingly, verbalizing your emotions can actually bring feelings of peace.
Journaling is a good way to check in, describe, and fully explore your feelings. You can also check out Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions, which helps bring clarity to how you’re feeling at the moment.
3. Do things that inspire you.
One way to practice self-care is to simply take time to enjoy things that make you feel inspired. This can mean taking time in your day to read a chapter or two of your favorite book, listen to music that you enjoy, or watering your plants.
If your day is simply jam-packed and you really don’t have time to squeeze in another activity, there are other ways to find inspiration during the day. Take a mindful walk, for example. Or listen to a podcast during your morning or evening commute.
Remember that your true self is your most authentic self. Your mistakes, flaws, and shortcomings do not define you–they are simply reflections of your past experiences and traumas you need to unlearn. Your true self is creative, free, and inspired.
4. Speak to yourself with kindness.
In other words, speak the truth. The truth, no matter how hard to accept, does not necessarily mean speaking to yourself harshly or abrasively.
When feeling self-blame or guilt, you may be masking a deeper undercurrent of emotions. Again, try examining your feelings as well as verbalizing and asserting how you truly feel.
Then, speak to yourself with kindness and compassion. The Art of Living recounts a Sufi saying beautifully: “Before you speak, let your words pass through three gates. At the first gate, ask yourself ‘Is it true?’ At the second gate ask, ‘Is it necessary?’ At the third gate, ask ‘Is it kind?’”
5. Live freely and for yourself.
We all have personal commitments, but when was the last time you’ve really made decisions based on what you want, what you’ve dreamed of, and what you desire? When was the last time you stood up for yourself?
This does not necessarily mean abandoning all your relationships, projects, and plans. This simply means acknowledging that it’s okay to leave a situation that no longer serves you, say no, and set boundaries even from people that you love.
This also means letting your choices reflect your hopes, and not your fears. If you’ve dealt with people pleasing behavior in the past, then practicing satya entails focusing your energies on yourself rather than the judgment of others.
There are still a number of ways to explore and practice Satya. So what is the principle of satya? It is embodying truth in every aspect of your life–in your thoughts, feelings, words, and actions. Most importantly, satya starts with yourself.
Remember that each yama is complex in its own way, and that to truly live a true and authentic life full of satya is to start with small, everyday habits that cultivate honesty within you and around you.
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