What is Satya?

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Yoga is an eight-limbed path. The path if followed in order to develop discriminative knowledge as a means to freedom. Attention is the tool for developing the discernment required to walk the path. The Yamas are the first limb of this path and they mean observances and self-regulation in relationship to the external world and others.

Satya is the second of the Yamas, following Ahimsa. Satya means truthfulness and Ahimsa means non-harm. Therefore, to become discerning through attention you must first practice living non-harm and then living truthfully. In this article we explore attuning to truthfulness and other Yamas in daily practice.

When applying Satya to your own life, be gentle with yourself and others and be careful not to be too literal. The truth for truth’s sake, for example, is not more important than maintaining a kind, nonviolent attitude and demeanor. If your truth is simply to reveal something painful but will have no social benefit, it may in fact not be the true meaning of Satya to express it. We will look closer at how to live more consciously of Satya in daily life with the practices below. Be encouraged to live a life more full of your truth as your dive deeper into the theme of Satya.

10 Practices to Living in Satya

Explore Your Current Feeling for Loved Ones

The Satya of relationships: Be encouraged to know how you currently feel in relationships that are longstanding. Scroll through you favorite contacts in your cell phone. Of those names, how many of the people have been important to you for many years? Are you living on an assumption you know how you still feel about them? Make time and space to comfortably lay back and relax. Breathe slowly and let yourself become calm. Then, bring each of these people into your minds eye one at a time. As you do, feel how your body responds to each one. The body gives so much information, the heart, the gut, the throat, and the head. Become aware of the sensation you experience for each important person to you. Enjoy your newfound exploration of these relationships.

Communicate and Don’t Make Assumptions

Do you ever make assumptions without directly communicating about them? Notice how speculation and anticipation shape your reality and keep you from truly communicating with others. The story you create can stand in the way of you opening to truthful conversation.

When you make assumptions you cheat relationships out of being a place you go to communicate and as a result, you live in a false reality.

Will you venture to have open conversations and enter into real communication and depth of relationship?

When Making Big Life Choices, Check In with Your Inner Experience

So often people make choices that they assume others want them to make or that they are “supposed” to make. I gained insight when my friend described her process for deciding whether to get her masters or to follow a healing path. She sat down in meditation and imagined her life going in either trajectory. She said when she thought about school, she could feel her brain. Conversely when she thought about healing arts and continuing on a yoga path, she felt her throat and heart. She said her throat chakra, the seat of her voice, and her heart chakra, the seat of her love were what she cared to feel and that it helped her know which path to follow. Will you make a practice of sitting with big decisions to feel how your mind and body perceive them and choose from your inner truth? What part of you speaks?

Do You Always Say Never?

Become aware of your use of hyperbolic, exaggerated language. If you speak using extremes of language such as always, never, very, so, extremely, all the time, etc., notice this linguistic habit. When it comes up, as yourself if your language use is impeccable or if you are exaggerating. Is this a truthful expression of reality?

Don’t sacrifice kindness for the sake on honesty

If you think too literally about Satya or truthfulness, then you could easily justify saying something just because it’s true. But, what if your speech results in no improvements and only adds hurt? Recall that Ahimsa comes first before Satya, and therefore nonviolent communication is more urgent than truthful communication. Next time you just want to spew negativity, stop!

Notice Your Limiting Beliefs About Yourself

Take this moment as an opportunity to examine living truth of thought and action. How are your limiting beliefs stopping you from reaching your potential? For example, if you just assume you can’t dance because someone made fun of your dance when you were 12, you may never feel the freedom of ecstatic self-expression. If you assume you can’t learn languages because you failed to pick up Spanish while sitting at a desk in college and labeled yourself ‘not good at languages,’ you could be cheating yourself out on an enriching life experience, travel, and relationships with people that speak another language.

With the determination and dedication, most of us can accomplish more than we could ever imagine.

I know this is true because everything I have been doing for years with diligence, I now do with grace and ease where I once felt like a total dud. Check in with your limiting beliefs and see how they may be robbing you of living a truly amazing life, keeping you in a life that isn’t truly yours or preventing you from blossoming into a new you.

The Cycle of Desire

Define your truth through the cycle of desire and notice where you lie to yourself or others, or prevent your own joy because the truth is uncomfortable or untimely. Here are the steps:

The Desire Cycle

  • Name the desire and how it makes you feel
  • Express your desire
  • Be present to receive said desire
  • Be grateful for receiving
  • Express your gratitude

It can be terrifying to admit what you want even to yourself. Maybe others have expectations of you that you feel pressure to uphold or you’re too afraid to be yourself because you could fail or be rejected. How will you act at this crossroads? Will you be brave enough to admit to yourself what you want? And when you do, will name it aloud to begin manifest it?

Maybe you’ve experienced getting what you want and still did not feel happy. That’s because you must also be present to receive your desire and then to accept it graciously.

Maybe you finally get the job you’ve been after. You are so convinced that you are not worthy of the job that you can’t enjoy it and your lack of self-esteem keeps you from being graceful, gracious, and expressing gratitude. What mental process needs to take place for you to truly be present to receive your desire? You could reimagine the same scenario by becoming ready to accept your desire and know that you getting it means you are worthy. Therefore you can graciously accept and express gratitude and confidence.

Consider the first stage of the cycle of desire, naming your truth. Can you remember a time that you could not or did not choose to admit to yourself what you truly wanted? How did that feel? Now think of a time you admitted to yourself what you wanted, did you find any liberation in that? Continue to notice how the choices you have made in the past may have been authentic to you or you suppressing your true nature. Then, start to think about what you currently desire. How do you want it to play out? Try out the desire cycle to bring your truth into manifestation today.

Be in Touch with Your Throat Chakra

The sensations in your throat can be your teacher. Pay attention to your throat during moments of difficult communication. Does your throat it tense and squeeze? What about in moments of loving communication? Do your words flow with ease? When you are speaking on a day-to-day basis, pause to notice the sensations of your throat. Feel the energy of it being open and fluid, or closed and protected or somewhere in between. Often the sensation of your throat can be a messenger of your truth to you if you only listen.

Is What I Have to Say an Improvement on Silence?

Just because it’s true doesn’t mean it needs to be said. Before you speak, especially if you’re ‘just venting’ for the sake of venting and not pondering problem-solving solutions, stop! The energy around venting can get you stuck in a cycle of negativity and victimhood. Try to express yourself so in a solution-oriented manner. That way, your truth is an expression of discernment and not purely negative. Consider that venting might cause harm to the person you a complaining about which violates the principals and definition of Ahimsa. Applying the principal of Aparigraha, or non-attachment, could help you to let go of what’s bothering you, find a sense of freedom, and then the inspiration to think of a way forward.

Credit the Source of Your Truth

When I have facilitated a really brilliant training, I am aware that my take on kids yoga is re-mix of the wisdom of my teachers, community, experience and education. I routinely make sure to honor the sources of my inspiration formally in my bibliography and aloud with acknowledgement. You make sure to live conscious of Satya (truthfulness) while not forgetting about Asteya (non-stealing) by practicing acknowledging your sources.

Attention to truthfulness is discernment. Living in this way will provide great freedom. Know that nothing needs to be achieved in this moment now. Attuning yourself to your inner truth and communicating that truth in a non-harmful manner will be a challenge. Luckily for you, as you practice, you have plenty of room for error, mistakes, and experimentation. You have your whole lifetime. What is truth today may be different tomorrow. Having a flexible attitude and gentleness toward yourself and others may make walking the path of Satya and ultimately yoga more accessible and pleasant. Gain the freedom yoga promises as you live life authentically.

The True Meaning of Aparigraha

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I turned the corner onto my street, the street I have called home for the past three years, the one my son took his first steps in, where my daughter spent her first night in the world, where Christmas trees have come up and down, meals savored, and where laughter and crying have echoed through the hallways at all hours of the day. There, standing in my front yard, was the erected “For Sale” sign, signaling to ourselves as much as to everyone else in our community that we were done, we were letting go, moving on.

My heart broke the minute I saw the tall white sign in front of our little house on Placer. Not because it came as a surprise, but because suddenly I knew we were making a mistake. In reality, my husband and I had been talking about moving – to a new home, something bigger with more room, an expansive backyard, a new zip code – for years. Actually, it seems like we spent more time in our home talking about a new home than we did actually enjoying the space we were creating for ourselves and our growing family. Bookmarking houses on Zillow had become an addiction.

In fact, I had become so addicted to the thought of something new that I was completely oblivious to the reality in front of me. Like any addict, I was living in an altered state, one that was preventing me from seeing clearly the love, magic, and beauty of exactly where I was. The technological drugs I consumed were clouding my mind, offering me a constant drip of distractions. It was seeing my house officially for sale, cleaning it to prepare for showings, that woke me up and knocked me back into the reality I had been missing. But was it too late?

Offers were being made on our home, jobs being accepted out of state, apartment leases signed, boxes packed, all while my heart was flooding with regret.

Emotionally off kilter, I fled to my yoga mat, the one place that has consistently brought me peace and grounding for the past decade. I turned to sage advice, poring through the hand-written notes I had taken in the margins of books spouting eternal knowledge, everything from Patanjali’s Sutras to the Bible and, my other bible, Tina Fey’s Bossypants. While the Bible offered me inspiration and Bossypants offered a much needed laugh, it was in the Sutras that I found solace in the Yamas, the internal disciplines of yoga, particularly that of Aparigraha, or the practice of non-grasping, non-attachment.

Okay, I thought, as the final box was moved out of our home and into my parents’ truck. This is a practice; this is letting go. I will be alright, I reminded myself as I slid into the front seat of our family’s car. I have my children, my husband – everything I really need, everything that is really important, is coming with me. So we moved. Our house was still officially on the market with offers being made, but in my mind it was sold, the decision made. I was taking what I needed. Aparigraha was my bitch – I was rocking it hard.

Or, at least, like any egotistical, self-righteous idiot, that’s what I thought. Because, within a week of our big move, I was depressed. Depressed and anxious. Depressed and anxious and grumpy.

The Reality of Practicing Aparigraha

I kept saying, “This is an adventure! Make the most of it!” But no matter how hard I tried to “Aparigraha” it, I couldn’t shake the dark cloud that had moved over me, laying claim to my thoughts day in and day out.

Because family was still back home and because our “back home” home was still technically ours, we spent many weekends out of our new apartment and on the road. Each trip was an emotional rollercoaster for me. I was happy to be home but confused about the future. Would this be the last time we could open the front door of our house? What if we backed out? Could we still back out? What would people think if we did? What would I think if we didn’t?

Bittersweet isn’t exactly how I would describe what I was feeling. Each time we visited home, only to leave a day later to drive eight hours north, the taste became more bitter, sour even. But I was stubborn, repeating the mantra “Let Go” over and over, hoping to eventually crack whatever it was that was making it difficult for me to really accept all of the changes that were taking place.

Why is Aparigraha So Hard to Practice?

Still unable to shake the depression and anxiety that had befriended me at the New Mexico-Colorado state border, I dove deep into trying to better understand what practicing Aparigraha really meant. Is it really just letting go, detaching yourself? Or is there more to it.

I read what Nicolai Bachman had to say about the Yama, that by practicing Aparigraha, we discover why we were born. Or, less esoterically, he also says that the more we accumulate things the more time we have to spend maintaining said things, which means less time for internal development. Got it.

I tried to focus on the feeling of freedom, thinking that by leaving our home and our community we were on a path of new beginnings. I meditated on feeling light, no longer bound by old habits. I worked to open my eyes to what was before me, trying to soak in each and every new experience.

I’ll admit that it helped. That my days were more enjoyable. That I found reasons to smile and laugh. But at the end of the day, as I laid down to sleep, the depression would creep back in. I was still crying myself to sleep most nights, muffling the sound from my husband and children so they wouldn’t know how much I was struggling with these changes.

One day, while at my new job in Boulder, I came across a yoga video by Mara Branscombe called Aparigraha for Freedom and Abundance. Still on my quest to better understand this yogic principle, I put on my headphones and turned my attention to what she was saying. She explained it simply, so simply in fact that I didn’t register how profound her words really were. I came back to the video the next day and really heard her as she said, “Aparigraha is taking only what we need… taking only what serves us… letting go when the time is right. Aparigraha allows us to become more present by letting go of expectations.” I scrambled to find something to write this down on:

Let go of expectations. Let go when the time is right.

I finished what I was doing, tore out this page from my journal, and walked to the park behind the office. I sat for a long time in silence, contemplating these two sentences. I dropped into a place of mental stillness that had been evading me for months. As I settled in, I began to see images, screenshots of everything that was important to me: my children laughing, my husband smiling, spending time in nature, having long conversations with friends, making memories with family, my home. Yes, my home with its red front door, its stucco courtyard, the garden in the back that my husband built, the picnic table by our waterfall, the lights hung over our bed, the fireplace in our living room. I began to cry. And then I called my husband.

In the next 48 hours we were making a pilgrimage back to our home. Not to pack or clean, but to enjoy it. We made fires in our chiminea, ate meals outside, walked with the kids to the neighborhood park, took in the mountain views from our backyard. Finally, we were present together in its walls. Neither of us talking about what we need to do or what we should do, just enjoying the here and now. We listened to our kids laughing as they played chef in their bedroom. We took time to visit with neighbors. We fell in love all over again.

Discovering the True Meaning of Aparigraha

That night, as we decided to not sell our home, I finally understood what I needed to do to let go, to really practice Aparigraha. You could say that I had an awakening when it comes to understanding Aparigraha. I let go of the expectations others had placed on my shoulders. I let go of the burden I had given to myself. Instead of letting go of the wrong things, the things that really mattered, I allowed myself to let go of what didn’t.

Aparigraha isn’t about letting go of all things – it’s about letting go of the right things at the right time.

The art of the practice is finding space to think clearly enough to discern what needs to be held closely and what needs to be let go. In my case, I needed to let go of my ego, of my expectations of the big move. As I did, I found that I was clinging to something that wasn’t important – this new life I had imagined for myself – instead of fighting for what I really needed right now – my home and the community that comes with it.

Maybe one day it will be the right time to let go of my casita on Placer Drive, but I trust that until that moment comes, I will let go of the desire to change what is already so good. I will give up the drugs of overthinking and options, replacing the habit with long, deep sips of appreciating the present moment.

How to Practice Aparigraha on the Mat

Your yoga mat is a beautiful place to practice the art of “letting go”. Using your practice as a place to explore and investigate what you cling to and why is one of the most beneficial tools I have received from my decade of practice. For so many of us, our yoga practice becomes something that we get attached to (how it looks, how it makes us feel, etc.), rather than letting it be something that is truly supportive.

There is nothing wrong with having goals and milestones in your yoga practice, but be mindful of why those are there. How are they serving your well-being and that of those around you? When you can begin to allow your yoga practice to evolve daily, to allow it to ebb and flow with you through seasons of highs and lows, you are discovering the heart of Aparigraha.

Anytime I feel myself clinging to my physical practice, I turn to a softer, gentler form – like Yin. In doing so, I give myself the space and freedom to get to the bottom of what is really going on in my life. At the end of the day, your yoga practice is truly the best way to see your reflection.

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