Living a life of TRUTH
Yoga can help us rediscover the essence of who we are and how we really feel, lighting a path to a life of truth. By Kat Farrants
The second Yama in of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is Satya, which has been translated as truthfulness. In our yogic journeys of self-inquiry, finding out what our own truth is, I think, is perhaps the most important journey that we take throughout our lives. It’s also one of the hardest. The reason why it’s so hard is that our cultural stories are so ingrained within us that it’s tricky to separate how we really feel within ourselves, what we really think, to what our culture tells us that we feel and think.
For example, in our culture, we often see our bodies as if from the outside, as if someone is looking at us and commenting on our bodies. It’s hard to feel how our bodies feel from the inside, without the outside commentary coming in. To me, the yoga practice is the practice of feeling, from the inside, how it feels to be ourselves. What our own truth is.
That can be so helpful in, for example, deconstructing damaging body image issues that many of us have. Rather than having our culture telling us what we look like, and seeing our own body from the perspective of how we look, our yoga journey teaches us to go within, to go on a journey to simply feel how we feel.
For me, that journey comes from quietening the mind, whether that’s in Savasana after a sweaty yoga practice, or in a luscious mid-afternoon yoga nidra (my personal favourite), the practice is to find out what our own truth is. This is where yoga poses can really help — when our body is stretched and challenged into a pose, it can help us to find out how our bodies feel.
We learn to befriend discomfort, to discern different stretches, and to listen closely to our breath, and to take notice of signs of stress, such as clenching in the jaw. Our yoga practice enables us to pause and take note of these things. During our physical yoga practice, we may ask ourselves: How does a yoga pose feel in this moment?
"Yoga is such a useful tool for us in building our interoceptive awareness, of becoming conscious of our own bodies, from the inside.”
It can be surprisingly hard to separate that simple truth of how we feel from the story of, perhaps, how that pose felt yesterday, or how you’d like it to look from the outside, or to separate it from the stories that our bodies have from injury or illness, or the passage of time. Maybe when we ask ourselves how we feel, we’ll indulge ourselves in stories about why this shape looks like this and not that, how my car crash that I was in decades ago means that my left lung doesn’t inflate as much.
My left shoulder is stiffer. Yes, that’s a truth. But that isn’t how it feels to be me right now. That’s just a story. Yoga is such a useful tool for us in building our interoceptive awareness, of becoming conscious of our own bodies, from the inside. It seems such thievery that our cultural narrative and our busy voices in our heads have taken away this seemingly very simple inner awareness. How our body feels at this moment is only the start of discovering our own truth.
But a very important start. How can we know what yoga we need to practice right now, at this moment, if we don’t know the truth of how we feel? Perhaps I know that, ah, because of the old injuries, I need to work on mobility of my left shoulder. That is one form of truth, but it doesn’t help me to find my own truth, of how it feels to live in this body right now. The practice that I need to have on this day, the choices that I need to make.
Our culture will be very keen to offer us suggestions of the latest type of yoga, fad of yoga, or maybe you’ll just be tempted to take the most convenient class. Perhaps based on my car crash story, I would be tempted to search for shoulder classes. But is that how I really feel right now?
My body and mind may need to be awakened and enlivened in other ways. For me, the ability to discern and to the responsibility for our own truth, our own mood, thoughts and feelings, is just the start of our ability to speak and act from a place of truthfulness in the world.
Practices that help me discover my truth:
- Yoga nidra to help me to quiet my mind and distance myself from cultural stories.
- A daily yoga practice which is supportive for what I really need that day.
- Taking time to walk in nature, to reconnect to what is real.
- Daily meditation and journaling practices.
- Regularly taking time to retreat.
Kat Farrants is founder of movementformodernlife.com, the online platform dedicated to helping you to find your yoga, your way. Revolutionising online yoga.
First published in November 2009, OM Yoga magazine has become the most popular yoga title in the UK. Available from all major supermarkets, independents and newsstands across the UK. Also available on all digital platforms.