I’ve been thinking a lot about honesty recently. In yogic terms this is known as satya and is incorporated into the yamas or ethical code of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. As a yoga practitioner I have spent time studying the sutras and looking at how non-truths impact on my life. This has changed the way I act and influenced who and what I allow into my life.
Honesty is quite a big deal, especially in our social media constructed lifestyles. It’s easy for me to post an amended photo of myself in some awesome yoga pose, looking glamorous. I might even convince myself that I am being inspirational and motivating people. But the reality is that the camera caught me in the split second I held the pose, I couldn’t walk for days afterwards and I edited my photo to make me look better. The whole thing would be a lie, perhaps for pure reasons, but a lie none-the-less.
The truth is out there
I used to tell more lies, because I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. If I was invited on a night out that I didn’t want to go on, I’d lie and say I had other plans. I can’t do this anymore, because I hate the way I feel if I’ve been dishonest. It just doesn’t taste right. If I’m invited to a night out and now don’t want to go, I thank the person for the invitation and politely decline. No excuses, no lies, no hurt feelings and no bad taste. It’s also quite liberating not having to remember my concocted lie.
But not everyone feels the way I do. I’ve often welcomed new students to my yoga classes as they wish to begin their yoga or fitness journey. Having led everyone through the class, I check in with the newbies at the end. Invariably they say something along the lines of how much they enjoyed the class and will be back for the next one. I know I’ll most likely, never see them again – and I’m ok with that. If I’m not their yoga teacher, it’s perfectly fine. But why lie to me? Why not just say ‘thanks for the class,’ and leave it at that?
Judging books by their covers
Recently I was asked to complete a survey, which required considering some tough questions. There were a lot of people I know invited to take part, and although it was optional, I wanted to participate. In the lead up to the questionnaire I heard rumours of people saying that we couldn’t be honest on the survey, we had to lie in order to make things look good. I don’t know if these rumours were true or not, but it made me wonder why some people consider a lie to maintain the situation, better than a truth designed to improve things.
In our yoga journey we can consider our approach to honesty both on and off the mat. If we are invited to enter a pose and given multiple options on how to approach the posture – do, we immediately go for the one we believe to be the most challenging? All too often I see yogis attempt to emulate a shape at the expense of good alignment and of safety. They are lying to themselves about their current abilities and choosing to push into a position their bodies may not yet be ready for.
On the other hand, some yogis lie to themselves through a process of denial – or by stating ‘I can’t do that because of …!’ These practitioners stand no chance of ever injuring themselves, and they will never push beyond their limiting thoughts and behaviours.
Yoga offers us a gift each time we step onto our mats. The gift of meeting ourselves as we are at that very moment and acknowledging and accepting our limitations or challenges. But in order to accept this gift, we need to be honest with ourselves. We must admit that we don’t (yet) have the strength or flexibility to enter this pose. But we also must admit that we come to the mat seeking to push through our boundaries and meet challenges head on. It is through surpassing these challenges that we can discover more truths about ourselves and take a step forward on the path to becoming the best version of ourselves.