As we continue our journey exploring the eight limbs of yoga, we are discussing the yamas, moral codes, of which there are five. The first, which we discussed last week, is ahimsa, loosely translated as non-harming or non-violence; this week we discuss Satya, truthfulness.
The concept of truthfulness is a simple one. It is certainly one of the first things that most parents teach children, truth telling is reinforced in schools and in religious contexts. It is something that most of us take for granted, yet when we look around, I wonder about that. I think about deceptive business advertising, politicians “spinning” their truths, as well as those of us that may tell trivial lies to spare ourselves some explaining or uncomfortable moments. Not only is it about being truthful with your word, but I think about honesty as being true to yourself, your principles and following a greater “truth”-whatever that might mean to you.
So, funny story, when i was writing last week's blog (maybe I was still dazed from being sick) I got ahead of myself and posted this Pinocchio picture (you know, the guy whose nose grows when he lies) in the discussion about Ahimsa (doing no harm). I really love this comic for Satya, or truth (for obvious reasons). I hope I did not confuse anyone, or more likely you were thinking "why is that picture here"? So, indulge me, and allow me to post it again this time, where I thought it belonged. 🤣😅😂
I fear that politicians, religious zealots, and people in general hide behind their “truths”. We can go down rabbit holes about what is truth versus fact (quite different because truth can be subject to one’s personal belief system) but in the context of the yamas, the intent is clear. Sutra 11.36 says that when Satya is well rooted, actions and the fruits of those actions are aligned. To be truthful (or honest) with our word or action, we should be clear about the situation and what is motivating us to be truthful.
Another way to think about aligning actions and fruits of the action when practicing Satya, is to practice truthfulness with compassion. Before saying something ask yourself, (1) is it true? (2) is it necessary?, (3) is it kind?
Krishnamacharya (my man Deskicachar’s father-considered the father of modern yoga) said that to practice Satya one should “talk only about what’s true” meaning it is only worth talking about absolute truth. For him, this was God. We all might gain something by speaking less (cutting back on hurtful “truths”), like when our moms told us “If you can’t say something nice, say nothing”? The Buddhist version of this suggests you consider the following before you say anything: is it necessary, is it true, is it good?
If I practiced this (especially at home) I would reduce my speaking aloud for sure. I am working on it. Remember, yoga is a practice.
Our Practice - Crescent Warrior Ashta Chandrasana with Kali Mudra
My yoga teacher and friend, Coral Brown, assembled a beautiful series of articles years ago around the yamas. I have used some of that material each year when I explore the 8 limbs, it is hard to improve upon her great work.
In the article (link below) Coral mentions Crescent Warrior incorporating Kali Mudra as one that embodies the essence of Satya. This mudra (hand posture) is named after my favorite goddess, Durga. The mudra represents her sword which slays illusions. She is 8 limbed and has a different weapon in each hand, each to wage war on bad stuff. I have a small statue of her in my studio and am constantly channeling her. As I have said before, you have not experienced yoga fully until you have attended a class with Coral as she tells the tale of Durga while you practice). The link to her article and practice video is below.
There are differences between crescent warrior and warrior one although many practitioners use them interchangeably. In warrior 1, we can feel awkward (or experience pain) as we press our back foot down, turned out while simultaneously trying to push (twist) that same hip forward – not accessible or comfortable to all practitioners. You may hear yoga teachers say point your hips as if they are headlights pointing forward. This can be uncomfortable, and injurious to our lower back especially if we do not appropriately modify.
Come to crescent warrior and interlace your fingers except the index fingers which point upward representing the sword of Durga. While in crescent warrior, inhale raising arms overhead visualizing your sword cutting through dishonesty toward yourself or others.
Right foot top of mat
Bend right knee, stacking it over right ankle
Step left foot back on mat, feet hip width apart (remember the train track analogy for steadiness), heel stacked over toes (heel is raised you are on ball of foot)
Hips are facing forward, lift your arms overhead relaxing your shoulders, pulling your belly up and in.
Here is an article discussing the subtle differences between crescent warrior and warrior 1 and why Kripalu teaches primarily crescent warrior.
Here is the link to Coral’s article and video.
Meditation – Satya – Truthfulness
Gandhi told us “Generally speaking, observation of the law of Truth is understood merely to mean that we must speak the truth. But we in the Ashram should understand the word Satya or Truth. In a much wider sense, there should be Truth in thought, Truth in speech, and Truth in action. Ahimsa is the means; Truth is the end.”
Truth telling is not about being brutally honest or hurtful. As Gandhi mentions, truth telling practiced without ahimsa is not Satya.
“Try to remain truthful. The power of truth never declines. Force and violence may be effective in the short term, but in the long run it’s truth that prevails.” – Dalai Lama
Nurturing with Food - Anadama Bread
For years I made this bread in my bread maker. Once the novelty of it wore off and I tired of the weird shape of the bread, I did not make bread until the pandemic. I discovered the dough hook on my stand mixer (that I had had for over 20 years) and was back into it! 😊 Since then, I have been experimenting with bread recipes and loved this version of my old favorite. I have adapted it from one found on spicedblog.com for a vegan execution but feel free to use real butter and milk.
See you on the mat!