Living in Satya…

This week, I had a meeting with a couple of lovely yoginis (lady yogis), whom also happen to provide me a paycheck in exchange for my class teachings – yep, in any other industry they’d be my bosses. They asked me some fairly esoteric and pointed questions with the expectation that I would come clean, so-to-speak, to my level of comfort. These questions leaned toward the direction of where my life-path is headed, and I responded that I’d answer any questions they had because, “I’m living satya this month.”

I share this silly little anecdote, not because it was profound in any real way, but rather because I want to demonstrate that our Playful Yogi blog is not about telling you how to live a more purposeful, kinder, or better life. Instead, we choose to live purposefully, kind, and as yogic a life as we can, and we want to share with you what we, as critical thinkers, know to be true about living a yogic lifestyle – just in case what we have to say resonates in any way with how you choose to live your life. Said another way, ‘we practice what we preach,’ and this month the focus has been on satya (truthfulness).

To be truthful is to be vulnerable, the vulnerability to let our guards down and live our honesty out in the open. And being vulnerable is terrifying… I am incredibly lucky to work for some truly amazing people, across all dimensions of my working life, and yet being completely honest with my bosses, coming clean, is still terrifying. These women, in the case of the anecdote above, in-part hold my livelihood in the palms of their hands, so to be truthful without fear of how they may interpret my words could be, in some cases, like stepping onto a verbal mine-field.

We face this potential mine-field in every situation, not only at work, but in every aspect of our lives from our intimate-personal relationships to our dealings with those seemingly random (a topic for another time) individuals we encounter in our daily lives. Our egos decide what is ours; maybe it’s something physical, tangible to which we can hold on. Maybe what our ego decides belongs to us is a trait, a characteristic which we possess and cling to for dear life. Regardless of what we choose to hold on to, though, the truth is that those things, those aspects of ourselves are more often than not, are worn as armor in an effort to guard ourselves from the hurt, i.e. our protective mechanisms.

PugWe as individuals want to protect what we perceive as “ours,” that is instinctual. Think about it, have you ever noticed how animals will only expose their bellies to people whom they trust, why because that’s the position in which animals are at their most vulnerable. But, as beings with the ability to reason, we’re given the choice to follow instinct alone or to challenge instinct and take action even in the face of fear. And we typically only do so when we first feel safe.

But, what would happen if instead of letting our egos protect us, we leveraged our egos – in some case let go of our egos – and practiced vulnerability; opening ourselves up to give and receive freely, without abridgement in every situation? As I have practiced satya (truth) over the last several weeks I have come to believe in its power; understanding that by allowing our vulnerability to stem from a place of love we begin to live it, satya this righteous form of truth which can open us up to many scary and wonderful things. Yes, we need to be cautious in some situations, but living a truthful life doesn’t stop us from being cautious. Instead, it helps us to live our dharma (purpose) which in turn begins to form a more loving, kind, and purposeful world. We encourage you to give it a try, what would a month of satya (truth) bring for you?

Do as is helpful – not just as I say or do…

This month we’ve focused on practicing satya (truthfulness), the second yama (restraint). Those two terms, restraint and truthfulness don’t, on the surface, seem to jive with one another; being truthful is a process of actively living honestly after all, while restraint is the action of holding back. How then, can we hold ourselves back with intention and be actively honest, both at the same time? Well, when we put it in the context of our daily yoga practice it becomes clearer.

For instance, yoga party tricks, that’s right, we’re talking Instagram Yogis! First, let me make it clear that I am not shaming these beautifully strong and flexible beings (whom often also happen to possess the genetic characteristics for contortion); Instagram Yogis Bakasanaare incredibly imaginative and have inspiring creativity! The truth is, we here at the Playful Yogi, love the playfulness of the Insta-Yogi movement because we believe it to be based on the philosophy that we learn through movement and play, asana’s (posture) greatest gift to the 19th century and beyond. And we believe in safety first because every anatomy is different.

Do you remember a few weeks back when we mentioned that yoga has evolved over time? Well, asana (posture) hasn’t truly been around for as long as is commonly believed. In fact, there are an increasing number of articles being written to remind people to lighten-up when it comes to the practice of yoga poses. The reason? Well, in part it’s due to these yoga party trick photo-ops, because even the “classical yoga poses” have only been in existence for a relatively short time in yoga’s vast history. In fact, the first asanas (postures) were intended only to prepare the body for meditation, so that yogis could sit for long periods and practice with little to no physical distractions.

With the advent of yoga poses, our physical practices have taken off, and we’re increasingly learning that movement and cognition go together like…two things that go together (please insert your favorite cliché here- he,he) so it’s a win-win, right? Yes and no, you see while stunning and exhilarating yoga party tricks carry with them the potential to be super dangerous to the majority of the world’s population. You see, supported headstand (Salamba Sirsasana) has no fewer than eight contrainidcations and one serious caution: not to practice this pose without strong experience and/or supervision. And to me, that’s a conservative, non-exhaustive list, and that’s only one of the “more basic” variations of yoga party tricks.

These advanced and master-level poses are fun and can be worked up to, if that’s something you, and you alone, are interested in practicing. But, it takes time and a great deal of foundational knowledge. Every day we learn more about the different aspects of the body and how our physical activities can both create benefit and cause harm. As a result it’s imperative that we all honor our current needs, our needs in the present honestly can change from day-to-day, moment-to-moment.

So, build your practice slowly, take it one day at a time, and always practice satya (truthfulness) and restraint as the body guides. There is a vast difference between pain and discomfort; we should never accept physical pain in order to advance our practice, but recognize that yoga can help us to learn to accept and endure discomfort both on and off of the mat. Remember, each practice is individual and no one should ever convince, embarrass, or dare us to progress more quickly than we are physically capable of, or willing to try. The body, your body, is capable of amazing things and it is at its best when it’s honored and loved.

Honesty is not an excuse.

Have you ever been on the receiving end of the phrase, “I’m just being honest,” or worse ever been known to utter such a phrase? I know I have and I’d like to commit to ending it right here! Think about it, if we have to say, “I’m just being honest,” then what was said wasn’t really for us at all, it was for them. The person on the other end of those words, the hearing end, the end in which feelings are inevitably going to get hurt – we knew it too, before we said anything, that’s why we needed the qualifier in the first place.

That phrase is ripe with excuse, the behind the scenes excuse which allows us to say whatever we want and of course we can’t be held accountable because, “We’re just being honest.” But, self-appointed judge, presiding over everyone and everything with whom/with which we come in contact is not a real thing. Contrary to what we may have been told it is not our right, not even according to the first amendment, to use language to demean and discriminate.

Yes, the first amendment does restrict the government’s ability to stifle our speech and that was done to ensure that government acts fairly. But, that’s not what we’re talking about here, what we’re talking about is moral law. Satya (truth), the second of the yamas (restraints), is known as righteous speech; the kind of speech which ensures that not only do we speak the truth in order to honor communication and each other, but that we do so without harm (himsa).

Last week we set the challenge to refrain from judgement, giving ourselves the opportunity to see the truth between perceptions, how did it go? Did you feel as if you were holding something back, I did! It was super challenging to keep my mouth shut when I felt aggrieved. For instance, driving is not my jam, in fact it may be my least favorite thing to do, ever. Earlier this week a car behind me honked because I took too long at the stop light. I didn’t follow my own challenge and angrily waved my hand in the driver’s direction and shouted nonsense out the window because… I was mad.

After all the light had only changed a few seconds before, the driver hadn’t been waiting long and I was just about to get moving when I heard it, the honk. I began imagining a scenario in which I got to tell the driver exactly what was going through my mind – haha, vindication! (Even if it was only a conversation taking place in my head.) But, as I carefully formulated and played, and sadly replayed, my defense in my head, I realized something, I didn’t need to be this angry over something so silly. In fact, that driver probably hasn’t had a second thought about the incident and yet I was still playing it over and over in my mind.

WHAT??? Since when did my truth become so important that I argued it to myself, not only once, but again and again? Also, my truth led to me yelling at someone which didn’t change anything; the driver could absolutely see my visibly angry reaction and had no context for my anger, and there it is, harm. Ugh, in an effort to stand up for myself, my truth, I hurt someone, maybe not significantly; I certainly hope not, but I did it.

Here’s the thing, we’re not impervious to feelings and our feelings are absolutely important, but so are the feelings of others. We have to be responsible to ensuring, to the best of our ability, not to react in anger or ignorance while still speaking our truth. The good news; we can speak with total honesty, not harm, and still get our point across and our feelings known. There are even organizations out there whose job it is to teach us how to practice satya (truth). Please don’t take this as promotion to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars in order to learn how to avoid harmful communication, but please do listen, observe, reflect, and then speak. It may take a little longer to communicate in the short run, but in the long run we’ll save countless time and words on apologizing later!

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Truth: not mine, not yours

Truth

Truth, it’s as big a word as any I’ve heard and yet it should be one of the most simple concepts for us to grasp and master; so why isn’t it? That right there is as complex a question as asking, “What is the purpose of the Universe,” or “Why are we here?” Satya (truth) is the second of the yamas (restraint) and it is colored and often tainted by our perceptions – something I’ve said before and will likely say countless times again…

Our perceptions, history, experiences, change us. Even the most seemingly mundane of interactions with each other and our world (yes, inanimate objects, too…) change us – sometimes profoundly and we may not even recognize that a given sequence of events resulted in such a change. And yet, it happens, each and every moment of each and every day, we are changed. Our hope certainly is that each change is for the better and yet that can’t always be the case.

One reason that is, is because we hold onto negativity. Maybe we had an unhappy or even tragic situation occur concurrently with an interaction with someone or something and we extrapolate that experience out to be a reflection of everyone and everything that reminds us of that situation, consciously or not. Yikes!

Let me be clear – I am not suggesting that the aforementioned interaction was caused by someone or something else, and yet we somehow draw the incorrect conclusion that if we hadn’t been part of said interaction then the unhappy result wouldn’t have come about. And then the stereotypes begin; “Every (fill in the blank) is (fill in the balk) and should be avoided, at the very least during any similar situations.” But, that isn’t true – for instance, not every yogi believes whole-heartedly in every given aspect of yoga.

Awhile back, in a blog-o-sphere far, far away, I read an account from a yoga teacher who couldn’t get behind the positive effects of meditation, “just because an ancient book(s) said so.” And so, that yogi began researching about brain waves before, after, and during meditation to prove or disprove the hypothesis that meditation has a profound effect on the human condition. That was her truth; she needed Western scientific proof before she was able to fully believe.

That isn’t inherently bad (or good) of course, it just is, and needing proof didn’t change the fact that meditation is good for us. Proof just helped that particular yogi see the fundamental truth; the truth beyond perception, history, and experience. We, here at Playful Yogi, challenge you this week to reserve judgement and reflect when faced with a potentially harmful (himsa) reaction and instead attempt to see the truth – not my truth, not your truth, but the real truth.