This term I am introducing some of the philosophy that lies behind yoga, and how it might be applied to what we do in class. We started last week with the ‘yamas’, which act as a guide as to how to live the right kind of life.

The second yama after ‘ahimsa’ (non-violence) is ‘satya’ or truthfulness. Like all the yamas, this is an idea or concept that is open to discussion, rather being than a commandment or rule. I like this interpretation by US teacher and writer Judith Lassater:

“Even when we are practicing yoga, we can easily confuse observation and judgment. In the studio, for example, it is not uncommon to have judgments about a pose we find unpleasant. When the teacher suggests we try such a pose, one of the following judgments may pass through the mind. First, we might say to ourselves, “This pose does not do anything useful” (judging the pose). Or we may inwardly judge the teacher. Finally, and probably most commonly, we think, “What’s wrong with me that I cannot do this pose?” (judging ourselves).

When we use speech that expresses judgment, we limit ourselves and others. In this case, we limit ourselves by putting the pose, the teacher, or ourselves in a box, a box labelled “bad.” We lose track of the fact that it is not the pose which is bad, nor the teacher, nor us. Rather, “bad” is an interpretation that arises within us. Whether we speak them out loud or silently, such judgments are not ‘satya’.

An alternative way to speak to ourselves about a difficult pose is to say, “I am having trouble with this pose right now.” When we use speech this way, whether silently or out loud, a very different atmosphere for learning is created. To make the observation that I am having trouble right now makes no statement at all about the pose itself, the teacher, or my worth as a student. When I use the language of observation, I give myself the space and freedom to change rightnow or at any point in the future.”

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