Frank de la Cruz
As a child, I can remember distinctly the emphasis placed on telling the truth. Add to that being raised in a southern-Baptist household, and telling the truth became a matter of eternal life or death. It’s amazing what the threat of eternal damnation does to your willingness to tell the truth. Luckily, as I’ve stated in my previous blog post, there is no threat of eternal damnation in our practice of Yoga.
Satya, Sanskrit for truthfulness (or as Stephen Colbert would say, truthiness), is the second of the Yamas. The Yamas being the five restraints described in the Yoga Sutras. Here we are asked to think, speak, and act with integrity, with truth guiding us through our life. For some, this may seem easy enough. Some may even rationalize that their lives are only little white lies, meant to keep the peace or save face.
First, let’s look at what the goal of this Yama may be. Why should we observe Satya? What is it about truthfulness that we should follow it in our daily life? Remember that the goal of Yoga is to achieve a calm mind. What happens when we lie? We create...more
A few days ago I had a super full plate. I was preparing for a training, company was coming to my home to stay and I had the regular business of living with grocery shopping, errands and work. I had it all planned out. If I could get the training prep done by noon, I could grab a quick bite, be on my way to drop off an Amazon return, then on to the grocery store, then home in time to clean the bathrooms and vacuum and prepare for dinner.
How do you think it all worked out?
I’ll spare you the stressful details but suffice it to say the training prep wrapped up around 3. The rest of the day could have unfolded in several ways. One you may be imagining now with a slow shake of the head, that familiar stress rising knowing you’re not going to be able to do it all. But what about the alternative? What about just going with the flow?
Seems impossible. But that is a big part of Aparigraha, the last yama in our first limb of yoga. Non-attachment.
If you’re reading yoga texts, like the sutras, this particular tenet of yoga seems way more severe than letting your...more
Frank de La Cruz
Whether you are new to yoga, or a long-time practitioner, you will inevitably come across the word ‘Ahimsa.’ Ahimsa, Sanskrit for non-violence, is probably one of the most recognized Sanskrit words in yoga not related to a pose. Ahimsa is also the first of the Yamas. The Yamas are yogic rules for ethical living and proper conduct put forth by the Sage Patanjali sometime in the last 2500 years.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll present all of the Yamas; Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, Brahmacharya, and Aparigraha. Let’s continue with Ahimsa, meaning ‘do no harm.’
At first glance, the precept of ‘non-harming’ or ‘do no harm’ seems like the easiest of all guidelines to follow. I wouldn’t call them commandments, and lucky for us, there is no yoga hell to contend with (other than having to hold chaturanga or chair pose for more than a minute). Most of modern culture in the west, teaches us not to kill, hurt, or maim other people. Ahimsa, however, is so much more than refraining from physically hurting living things. We should seek to bind Ahimsa to our thoughts, words, and deeds....more
Here we are at our fourth yama: Brahmacharya. In the old texts that were meant for those men seeking monkhood in yoga, this word was translated as celibacy. Today, with so many people of varying backgrounds practicing yoga and immersing in the yoga philosophy, we’ve sanded the edges and broadened the meaning to encompass moderation of all appetites.
But the principle behind celibacy is still valid.
When one is studying to become a holy renunciate, the goal is to devote one’s entire being to God or that higher power, bigger cause, the Universe, etc. And to that end, sex is a distraction. Along with a whole host of other behaviors.
Here’s how this all rolls out.
When we engage in anything beyond its purpose - sex for procreation, credit cards for emergencies, food for sustenance, exercise to keep fit, social media to stay informed and connected – we are wasting valuable energy (known as prana in Sanskrit). This energy that we are giving away willy nilly could be harnessed and used for higher purposes. Maybe going after an advanced degree, starting a...more
The third yama (restraint) of the Yoga Sutras is Asteya. It is asking us not to steal. Simple enough, just don’t take other people’s stuff. Right? But you didn’t really expect it to be that easy, did you?
This is a little story about abundance and gratitude. It is less about non-stealing than it is about the lack of desire to take from another.
Let me explain.
Stealing comes in many forms, if I threw a few questions out there I bet you could answer them without even thinking. Let’s play.
Here are a few categories in which one may find themselves purloining from another:
· Energy – how might one steal energy from another?
· Time – in what ways do we steal time from others?
· Joy – is it possible to steal someone’s joy? How?
· Happiness – what are some ways you can rain on someone’s parade?
Did you come up with some good answers?
Let’s unpack a few.
Energy: We deplete the energy of another by complaining, by telling our same tired, worn out story over and over again. We take...more
There’s this yoga tenet called Satya that asks us to be truthful. Sound advice, but what does that mean exactly?
Perhaps unbelievably, there are many definitions of truth. Truth can be defined as conformity with fact or reality, or a verified indisputable fact, or actual existence. But there are holes in those theories. Facts change. The world is flat, for example. Facts are a place holder until newer facts come along to bump them out of the way.
But truth is also defined as honesty and integrity. That feels like something to work with.
Satya is the second of our yamas (restraints) just after non-harming (ahimsa). It is typically translated as non-lying which, flipped, would mean truthfulness, right? Maybe. So many gray areas surrounding such a simple concept. When we compound non-harming with truthfulness we walk a delicate line. Should I be honest, or should I tell a little white lie to be nice?
There is a way out of the cloud of confusion.
The deeper meaning of this yama points toward living authentically, having no secrets, an open heart....more
Tucked into the pages of the sometimes daunting, oft confusing, but ultimately aha-worthy, Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are 10 little directives call the Yamas and Niyamas. There are five of each.
The Yamas are five restraints, or things we practice NOT doing, while the Niyamas are five observances that would serve us well if we did them. The very first of all of them is Ahimsa. Non-harming. Or to put another way, compassion. But it’s a little more than that too.
Ahimsa asks us to look first at our place in the world. What we believe is our place. If we are coming from that teeny tiny seed that was planted maybe forever ago that “I’m not enough,” then Ahimsa and all the ones that follow will be challenging. But, maybe, that’s kind of the point. It’s work. It is THE work.
Do you practice self-compassion? Do you love what you see in the mirror? Are you comfortable with your family of origin and your place in it? Do you see every opportunity as a gift? No? Then, welcome, let’s get to work.
This non-harming business encompasses thought, word and deed. Negative...more