Satya - Truth
S A T Y A The word ‘sat’ literally translates as ‘true essence’ or ‘true nature’. Sanskrit is a vibrational language and so each word is so much more than a label – it literally holds the very essence of the word. Because of this, ‘sat’ also holds the meanings; ‘unchangeable’, ‘that which has no distortion’, ‘that which is beyond distinctions of time, space and person’, and ‘reality’. Many Sanskrit words use the prefix ‘sat’ such as ‘satsang’ meaning ‘true company’ and ‘sattva’ meaning ‘pure’, which leads us to understand that ‘sat’ really means more than ‘truth’, it’s something that is unchanged and pure.
When looking at the word ‘truth’ from this perspective, it’s easy to then understand how so much of our time is spent not actually seeing the truth or reality in any of our life situations….
Our thoughts, emotions and moods are extremely interchangeable, yet these are the things that create our own truth and our whole life experience. If ‘sat’ means ‘unchangeable’, then this can make us aware that much of our experience of life is brought about by paying more attention to that which changes, rather than the unchanging truth.
As we all know, there’s nowhere to hide when it’s just us and the yoga mat, and this is often the place we get to take a good look at ourselves, our habits, and our state of mind….
Practising asana with Satya in mind can be very similar to applying the first Yama ahimsa to our physical practice. How many times have you ignored or pushed past an injury or limitation just to get into that yoga posture? Even if it’s only staying in a challenging pose a few breaths more than our bodies really needed to, it’s this dishonesty with ourselves that can often cause physical pain….
Our yoga practice is here to serve our bodies and minds, not harm our joints and ligaments – so each time we get on the mat it’s important to have complete honesty with what we actually need in that very moment. On a physical and emotional level, we change all the time, so fixating upon one way of practising isn’t always going to work out. When we can get the ego-mind out of the way (you know, the one that tells us we should be able to do headstand, or we should be able to meditate without getting distracted….) this offers us a way to see past our conditioned, ever-changing and un-true ways of thinking, and uncover a more pure and beneficial way of practising and treating ourselves on all levels.
One very simple way of observing truth in our practice is by paying closer attention to the breath. The breath is such an important factor in asana practice, but one of the most important aspects is that it tells us when to back off…. If the breath is strained or shallow, it’s likely that the body isn’t happy with what it’s being asked to do - so even though it might hurt our ego a little bit, honesty requires listening to the breath in every moment and working with it.
The Pavamana Mantra from the Upanishads is used by many practitioners as a daily acknowledgment of moving towards truth:
ॐ असतो मा सद्गमय ।, तमसो मा ज्योतिर्गमय ।, मृत्योर्मा अमृतं गमय ।, ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥
Om asato mā sad gamaya, tamaso mā jyotir gamaya, mṛtyor mā amṛtaṃ gamaya, Om shanti~ shanti~ shanti hi~~
“Lead me from the unreal to the real From darkness (ignorance) to light (knowledge) From death to immortality”