Yoga Philosophy: Satya, the Second Principle of Yama


You’ve likely heard a variation of “lying is bad” more than once in your life. It’s one of these concepts that is generally considered immoral and bad. Let’s look at it from the perspective of yoga and explore the principle of satya.

When we lie, we’re putting our minds through lots of extra work. We need to remember what’s true and what’s not. What we should and shouldn’t tell, and so on. It likely makes us tell even more lies in the future.

According to yoga philosophy, lying causes fluctuations of the mind. To understand what these are, imagine the still surface of a lake. If you look into it, you see a clear reflection of yourself. That’s what your mind should be like sans fluctuations.

But if you throw a rock into the lake, ripples appear. Your reflection will become distorted. Sadly, that’s what our minds are like most of the time.

The more restless our minds are, the less likely we are to be at peace. Practicing satya can help us stop these fluctuations.

What Is Satya?

Satya is the second principle of yama, and it means truthfulness or honesty. Through the practice of satya, our actions can be in accordance with our words and thoughts.

If there is no disconnection between what we think, say, and do, our minds don’t have to do all the extra work. The fluctuations stop, and we can see a clear reflection of ourselves.

Here are a few ways of practicing satya in your everyday life.

How to Practice Satya on and off the Mat

Satya in Relationships

Trust is the foundation of any relationship, be it friendship, marriage, family, or business. Lack of it is one of the main reasons why relationships fail because it strips them off security and safety.

Trust takes time to build, but you can destroy in a matter of seconds. Not being honest is one of the things that does it. Lying intends to mislead. It also shows disrespect towards others and projects an inaccurate image of who we are.

Speaking the truth requires a lot of courage and acceptance of our flaws. Not everyone will like that, but it’s neither necessary nor even possible. Some people will dislike your honesty and leave. Let them. Those are the ones you don’t need around you anyway.

Now, the trick here is to find the balance between satya and ahimsa. This means that you should be both honest and kind.

If telling the truth will hurt someone, aim to cause the least amount of harm. Sometimes, you could word what you want to express differently. Sometimes, it may be better not to say anything at all.

Satya to Yourself

Controlling what we tell others can be difficult. What’s even harder is staying consistently honest with ourselves.

Nowadays, people are disconnected from their true selves. They identify themselves with their gender, nationality, believes, habits, and similar. Basically, we’re all like onions. Hiding our true inner selves underneath a bunch of layers and having no idea who we actually are.

In yoga philosophy, there are two concepts – atman and ego. The atman is our true inner self, and it hides behind the ego, our false self. The ego is created as a projection based on our experiences, thoughts, and memories.

Our ego thinks that the world revolves around it, and its primary function is to protect itself at any cost. You can see it, for example, when a person says “I am/do/like/have/eat X,” and takes any arguments against X as a personal insult. When in reality, it is only an argument against X rather than an attack against the actual person.

We often act from the ego, and, each time we do so, we give it even more power. As a result, distance ourselves ever more from our true selves.

Honesty with yourself requires strength, introspection, self-awareness, and lots of inner work. But by not being truthful to yourself, you may be inhibiting your growth as a person.

Yoga is all about transformation, and transformation rarely comes without pain and discomfort. That is absolutely normal. Similarly to how it is normal to feel sore if you’re working on building muscle or improving your flexibility.

To deal with it, try creating space between yourself and your problems, feelings, and thoughts. Take a few breaths and think whether it’s you who is about to act or it’s your ego.

Satya in Thoughts and Words

To practice satya in thoughts or words, you need to distinguish between truth and opinion.

Imagine that you see someone wearing a horrible dress. Is that dress really horrible or it’s horrible in your opinion? The dress may indeed be horrible, but most likely it’s the latter. So, instead of saying or thinking, “What a horrible dress!” try something like “I wouldn’t wear such a dress.” By doing so, you’ll gradually become less judgmental.

Another way of practicing satya is clearly telling what you want instead of giving hints. It won’t come easy, and it won’t feel comfortable, but it will be more likely to get you places.

Last but not least, you should keep your word whenever you make a promise. You also have to be honest with yourself when you do so, though.

Don’t just say “yes” because you’re expected to or feel bad about saying “no.” If you think that you won’t be able to follow through or that it would overburden you, just say “no.”

Satya in Asana Practice

You also may be doing the opposite of satya if you say or think something along the lines of:

  • “This yoga class was useless.”
  • “This yoga pose doesn’t do anything for me.”
  • “I can’t do this pose. What’s wrong with me?”

Honestly and objectively assess your skills as well as your body’s capabilities and needs.

Accept the fact that you may not be aware of everything. What if the teacher wants to teach a new pose in the future and is preparing students for that? Maybe you were not aligned correctly and were not experiencing the full benefits of the pose.

In many cases, you may simply need to strengthen or lengthen certain muscles to be able to perform a pose. Sometimes, you just need to relax. The key is to look past your ego.

Final Thoughts

One of the yoga sutras says:

“To one established in truthfulness, actions and their results become subservient.”

By staying honest, you also get the perk of just being yourself. There is no need to worry about remembering tons of unnecessary information. Your actions will be a reflection of your thoughts and words, and you’ll have a more authentic relationship with yourself and others.

Let’s Talk!

How do you practice satya in your everyday life? Perhaps you have some more tips to share?

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