Satya is one of Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga, as written in the Yoga Sutras. It translates as ‘non-lying’ or in other words truthfulness, and I can only assume that Patanjali had as many issues with deceit 1,700 years ago as we do today in 2017. Dishonesty can’t be a new concept, otherwise why would it be a part of the 5 Yamas, or restraints we are advised to practice as part of yoga?
In my experience people don’t like honesty. We are afraid of hearing the truth. When a Personal Trainer told me that I should avoid practicing backbends because of tight muscles, I was devastated. I had been working on Urdhva Dhanurasana for years, with little progress and resented the honest assessment that tightness in my lats and psoas were preventing me from working towards this posture with any degree of success. I was convinced I was not strong enough and was working on a gym programme to build upper body strength. Only the programme I was following was making the tightness worse, and leading me down a path towards injury and pain. So I faced a choice, to ignore the honest assessment of a well meaning stranger and avoid the posture I coveted so badly, or to continue with the weight training and hope for the best.
Acceptance is the start
Almost a year down the line, my muscles are beginning to loosen off. I am more aware of the tightness and the areas I carry stress (my shoulders) and through working with my trainer I have built some core strength, and stability. Most importantly, I accepted the truth that my journey towards backbends has a long way to go, but I am now on the right path to get there someday. Having my weaknesses pointed out to me, being advised to avoid the posture I was working towards and forcing myself to focus on the ‘basics’ I found a new appreciation for the practice of honesty. Using brute force to approach my yoga practice was a sure route to injury, but now I am building up the skills to sustain my yoga journey for years to come, and to earn that upward bow pose.
Not everyone appreciates honesty
It’s not just on the yoga mat that I have had to learn to practice honesty. I’ve had to acknowledge that I am not invincible and that occasionally I need support from my friends and family. Most recently I have had to face up to the fact that other people in my life cannot accept honesty. It is like being blinded by a pure, white light. The truth shines back at them reflecting images they do not want to see.
Someone asked me a simple question, and my honest response was not what they were looking for. They wanted me to lie, pretend everything was fine and give them the chance to vent their issues. Instead I answered honestly, and things did not turn out well. Would it have been better for me to lie? Yes. A lie would have been a deception to the outside world, and me denying my feelings their validity. But instead I accepted and took ownership of the answer and now have to live with the consequences.
In this instance, honesty has left me with a bitter taste in my mouth, and sore eyes from a lot of crying. But my conscience is clear, I cannot be responsible for anyone else accepting my truth. I can only promise to not lie to myself and to live with integrity.
It takes time to process
This post has been sitting in my drafts for months, and I have been a bit scared to publish it. Afraid of being honest and opening myself up to the harsh reality of life on the internet. I try to be honest in all my endeavours, but it is most definitely not easy. If it were easy, perhaps more people would embrace this strange and unusual concept!