Tag Archives: satya

Opportunity For Honesty- Politics, Satya, and Yoga (Follow-up to Satya Post 1)

This week’s post on Satya (seen here) was really hard to write. I actually had to take a nap in the middle of writing it. Not because I was tired- but because my body put up a defense mechanism: sleepiness in the face of stress!

The fact is that I’m experiencing a problem with honesty in my life. Not that I’m a big horrible liar. But when I’ve identified a truth in my life, I feel that I need to share that, wear that, on the outside of my skin as much as I do on the inside. And when I don’t, I’m uncomfortable.

There’s something big going on that made me feel really hypocritical when writing the Satya post. It’s so big in fact, that you can’t help but hear about it, see it, be inundated with it everywhere you go.

I’m talking about the 2012 Presidential Election.

Have you seen this picture on Facebook?

Do I have to hide from your opinion in order to be your friend?

This is the post that really called me out. Because I completely agree with the sentiment- and in my case, it’s cowardice.

Here’s the truth: I have a strong (Democratic) political opinion. I very much do NOT want a President Romney in the House. I have given money to the Democratic party this year and I’d give more if I could.

But I’m a chicken, because you haven’t heard me say anything about it. There are two reasons, and neither of them are good ones.

The first is that I dislike conflict, and because (I say to myself) I do not feel that I am well-enough educated in the issues and platforms of the parties to intelligently argue my side. This is nonsense.  I am certainly as educated as many of the other folks out there spewing facts. I’ve just wanted to avoid the conversation- it’s much easier to be cozy and comfortable in my quiet little opinion.

The second issue is that I’ve been afraid of alienating people that I love and care for (and who, shockingly, don’t agree with my political views! What an educational month it’s been in that regard). Students. Fellow teachers. Friends. Politically (I’ve rationalized to myself), it’s best that I just remain quiet on the topic unless directly asked. In truth, again, I just don’t want to put us in that uncomfortable position.

So why get my yoga panties in a twist over the whole situation? Why does the concept of truth cause me to hide under the covers? Well, If I’m truly living yoga-  which I aspire to do- then don’t I have a responsibility to shine not only my truth from the inside out, but to actively work to create (what I believe is a) better society for all of us?

I’m fortunate enough to be a member of a society that allows us to choose how the country is run. My vote is as important as any of the other choices I make- and in fact, my vote will determine whether or not I am ABLE to make any of these choices in the next four years.

So yeah, there’s been a hypocrisy to my silence up to this point- maybe I wouldn’t have been saying much of anything, but my reasons for saying nothing have not been aligned with my morals.

Please note that I am not condemning anyone else for keeping their silence, on this or any other topic. We all find ourselves at different places on our journey and the step that is right for me today may not be right for you. This post is simply about my experience.

Do yoga teachers have a responsibility to act politically? Or would you rather not know? If you like, leave a comment below- please keep it respectful- temper your Satya with Ahimsa, please!

Satya Will Set Ya Free!

Have you ever told a white lie for what seemed like a good reason- and then got caught up in layer after layer of complication?

Or found yourself talking with some friends about an acquaintance in a way that you knew was unkind- and then felt bad, after, when you saw that person?

Have you ever indulged in a habit that you knew was a bad idea for you- and then felt awful afterward?

Yeah, me too.

“That which is false troubles the heart, but truth brings joyous tranquility” -Rumi 

Right on, Rumi. It doesn’t feel good when we’re false in thought, word or deed. As always, yoga has a solution. This week in class I’m exploring the second of Patanjali’s Yamas, which is satya, or truth.

A nice way to get started is through your practice on the mat. Begin to listen to your internal narrative, and question what it says. You’ll know it’s time to tune in when your emotions start to act up. If you’re feeling stressed, irritable, or unhappy, during a challenging posture, there’s a good chance you’re experiencing one of these common thoughts:

  1. “This pose sucks. Why would I even want to balance on one foot while holding my big toe?” 
  2. “This teacher doesn’t know what she’s doing. It’s her fault. She didn’t give us the right information to get us into the posture.” 
  3. “Everyone else can do it. There must be something wrong with me.” 

Other variations can include, Blaming Society, Blaming Parents, Blaming Your Job, Blaming the Guy Who Cut You Off in the Pickup Truck and Made You Late So You Had To Put Your Mat Too Close to the Wall, etc.

If you find yourself thinking any of these things, congratulations! You’ve identified a place to work. Now it’s time to decide- is your thought true? What is the reality behind this thought? What could you accurately say instead? Perhaps, “I am finding this pose challenging today” might be enough for today.

Gradually, it becomes easier to trace thoughts back to their truthful origins, and you can take the practice off the mat. In your day-to-day life, when you are feeling a strong, unpleasant emotion, stop and listen to the internal talk. What are you saying to yourself? What truth are you filtering? How do you feel when you get down to the truth?

Once you’ve learned to identify truth, you may even wish you could put the genie back in the bottle. It’s a life-changer. Now, as you talk to friends, and experience daily interactions, you’ll notice that you often say all kinds of things that you know aren’t really true. That don’t represent the true you.

Before you know it, you’ll begin to change how you speak to others, and after that, how you act, as well.

You’ll have to, you see, because by then you’ll have found that it feels so much better when you 1) think the truth and 2) speak the truth and 3) live your truth.

Or that’s where we’re headed, anyway. As always, go easy and be gentle with yourself as you practice. There’s a reason that ahimsa (non-violence) is the first of the yamas. We want to always temper our truth with the sweet touch of kindness.

How do you practice satya? What have your challenges been? Please leave a comment below- I’d love to hear from you!

A Sad Tale of Ahimsa and Janu Sirsasana C (Or, Your Yoga Teacher is Kind of a Hypocrite)

Janu Sirsasana C- photo from http://www.sensational-yoga-poses.com

So recently I’ve been playing a bit with the Ashtanga Primary Series. It’s more like a flirtation- I’m not ready to commit to a serious Ashtanga practice.

To mix metaphors, you could even say I’m just dipping my toe in the water.

My incredibly crippled, feeble little pinkie toe.

The one that I mashed mercilessly into the ground two days in a row in an attempt to do Janu Sirsasana C.*

You see, in this version of Janu Sirsasana (“Head to Knee” pose) your bent leg is contorted so that the the sole of your foot is pressing into your opposite thigh; the heel is up in the air and your toes are pressed into the ground. It requires openness in the hip and Achilles tendon that I, apparently, do not possess. Right, ouch…

I did this posture on Saturday during my practice, and it was pretty painful. When it came time to practice again on Sunday, as we finished Janu Sirsasana B, I thought “Oh God, this isn’t going to be good.” Ignoring that wise little voice, I muscled my way into the posture- both sides- and then limped through a sad little vinyasa after to the next posture. I believe that I actually whimpered.

The next day, my pinkie toes were killing me. I could still wiggle them, but not in a happy way. I had to tell someone about my silly toe problem. I sought out a sympathetic friend.  “You’re not going to believe the ridiculous injury I gave myself this weekend,” I said, and described the series of events that led up to the mangling of my toes.

My (beloved, honest, good) friend said to me, “Wait. Isn’t this what yoga is about? Not doing this kind of thing? Isn’t that what you always say?”

“Well… yeah.”  And then I paused, and really thought about it. Yeah, I knew. I knew it was a bad idea to deliberately, manually, stub my toe. I knew that I was not practicing ahimsa– the yogic law of non-violence. But, as so often happens in a practice, I let my ego win over my good yogic sense. And until my friend called me out, I hadn’t truly internalized the lesson. I was violating the yogic law of satya– truthfulness- as well!

So, what should you take away from this? Your yoga teacher is a hypocrite? Hopefully not. Maybe, she knows whereof she speaks? Sounds better. Let’s go with that.

Seriously, I think what really struck me is that no matter how far I think I’ve come, the practice continues to teach me. I’d gotten complacent with myself (“Sure, ahimsa, right, I’m good, I don’t need to worry about that”) and I’d forgotten how to hear my own voice. Thankfully I could still hear my friend’s, reminding me (kindly) to practice what I preach.

I haven’t quite figured out what I’m going to do next week when I get to Janu Sirsasana C- but it’s going to be a lot gentler.

*Ironically, this link suggests that if you aren’t comfortably able to do this posture, that you instead work up to it by doing a pose called-  wait for it- “Toe Breaker.” Oh, okay. That sounds reasonable!