Satya, truthfulness, is the second of the five yamas in the first limb of Ashtanga (eight-limbed) yoga. It is preceded in the yoga sutras only by ahimsa, or non-violence. It may seem like a simple concept, but as most of us know, truth can be a complicated thing. The ego can suggest we avoid the truth. The ego can bring up fears and insecurities and all kinds of reasons to avoid the truth.
An integral part of yoga is learning to discern the truth. Is my arm straight up in Trikonasana? Is my knee hyper-extending in Parsvottanasana? Is my hip popping up from the floor in Parsva Supta Padangusthasana (aka Supta Padangusthasana 2)? This practice of observing one’s true physical self can often lead to more internal observations of one’s mental, psychological and spiritual self. That is one of the many benefits of yoga.
During the last several months, one of my new roles is making social media posts for the studio. Of course we want our current students and potential new students to see beautiful asanas. We want to show precise alignment, attention to detail, appropriate and sometimes creative use of props – all of the hallmarks of Iyengar Yoga. So I took a few “selfies” a couple weeks ago for a post I had in mind to share. However, my thoughts changed when I looked through the photos.
As soon as I looked at the photos, the first thing I did was pick out ALL the imperfections in my asana and my body. I was filled with a sense of dread. How could I share these photos? Our social media feeds are filled with “perfect” looking bodies doing “perfect” looking asanas. My asanas and my body are decidedly not perfect. After a couple minutes of internal debate, I decided to own my truth and share the photos anyway.
I showed up that morning. I was on the mat. I worked in these asanas and others not shown in the photos. And satya, the truth, is that my asana practice is not perfect. Even after many years of practice. And the truth is also that imperfection is fine. The showing up, the getting on the mat, the work in the asanas, setting aside the ego and sharing the truth with our fellow yogis and yoginis – that is what is important.
My hope in sharing this little bit of truth is that we can all be a little more accepting of our imperfections and show ourselves self-compassion when those imperfections are boldly staring us in the face. The truth is that none of us are perfect. And there is a place for all of us, however “imperfect,” in yoga. Come to the studio and practice with us soon.