Satya, one of the yamas of Yoga, is a self-restraint of truth and honesty. This Axis YTT student simplified an over-booked schedule in order to have the time to look within. By being introspective this student was able to be honest with the Self. By creating stillness, questions that had been avoided through ceaseless action could be addressed.

With the yama/niyama experiment creeping up on me, I was doing my best to figure out what was “wrong” with me so I could come up with a life changing experiment.  I wanted to experience something that would unlock the key to my existence and allow me to make major life changes.  The only drawback was that I had no clue what I wanted to address.  It felt really overwhelming until former students came in to talk about their experiences.  Two students spoke about their experiments and their experiences really resonated with me and led me to the satya group.  I determined that my satya experiment would be about my willingness to be truthful to myself.

I realized that for the past few years I have been constantly on the go, always doing something, running from one activity to the next with very little time allotted for myself.  I continually overloaded myself with obligations to friends, acquaintances, my job, my ceramic studio (something that I love), even obligations to a bucket list I recently started.  I was bogged down with so many activities that I agreed to or “needed” to do, I found myself getting stressed and lashing out at others for activities that I volunteered for.  I was less effective in these activities and my daily life because I overloaded myself.  This was making me extremely unhappy.

My initial observations were that I 1) attempted to please others at my own physical and mental expense, 2) overloaded myself with activities with no time to just be (alone, with myself, with no obligations), and 3) was not comfortable unless I was on the go.  My hypothesis in this experiment was that in order to be more honest with myself I needed to:

  1. Clean up my social media account, cell phone address book, and email account and remove people who I didn’t maintain an honest communicate with.  This would have the result of narrowing down the number of people who would be able to ask me to do things.
  2. Practice 30 minutes of meditation each night before bed, track my meditation with matches, and make notes in journal about any relevant thoughts around the meditation.  This would allow me alone, guiltless time where I could just focus on myself.
  3. Keep a journal on me at all times during the experiment to make any notes during the day that might arise outside of my mediation window.  This would allow me to get any “junk” out of my head.

It felt great to give myself permission to follow up with #1 because these were tangible things.  The matches gave me some control over #2 except I had hit or miss days with the meditation.  I knew that 30 minutes seemed ambitious for my first project but I am still fighting my urge to please in this project.  I set up a meditation area in my room.  This was another tangible activity so it felt like my time for meditation was “official” which made me feel more devoted to the idea of practice.  I could visually control this area with candles, fabric, and a favorite pillow but would get frustrated when my brain wouldn’t calm down.

#3 was difficult because I found that the more I meditated, the more questions I had.  My journal is filled with questions that would pop up at the strangest times.  This seemed counterintuitive to the idea of meditation quieting the mind.  It felt like I had turned a blender on high and this journal was the catchall for thought puree.  Some of the questions were related to the study of yoga like “How do I balance satya and ahimsa?” and “Who determines this balance?”  Other questions were more personally identified like “Why am I forcing myself to go 1,000 miles a minute?”, “What is something I can do to have some awareness when I am going too fast?”, and “Will these things matter in the future?”  Writing these questions down was a way to acknowledge what I had been avoiding by keeping myself busy.  While I don’t have the answers for even half of these questions, I have started the process of trying to answer them.  Seeing these questions and thoughts in my journal was scary but allowed me to validate these feelings that I’ve suppressed by keeping so busy.  It also allowed me to identify that there’s no rush other than my own self-imposed rush and that much of my frustration at the world was really a frustration towards myself directed outward.

After conducting this experiment, I feel like I have started the process of being truthful with myself but that I have only barely scratched the surface.  I find that I like giving myself permission to say no or to establish boundaries when it comes to activities.  It has made the activities that I have participated in more fulfilling.  I am also not agitated during activities that I have consciously and thoughtfully chosen to take part in.  I have started keeping track of the activities I am currently engaged in on a calendar so that I can ensure that I have scheduled time for myself and I don’t overbook myself.  I have been less irritated at work and more productive because I am focusing on each project fully instead of trying to work on four different things at once.  This is not to say that this experiment has been a complete success as I regressed to previous behaviors where I allowed myself to become overloaded at work and at home, resulting in the usual lash out.  However, by redirecting myself, continuing my experiment, and following the guidelines I set up, I was able to come back to the path that I was trying to follow on this experiment.  I found a great interpretation of satya on the internet as “the Truth which equals love”.  I think that this is one of the most important things I’ve discovered in this experiment.  Through being truthful with myself, I am loving myself.

The following posts describe one Axis YTT student’s efforts to rid the body of residual rubbish through the niyama, tapas. Creating internal heat through pranayama and asana resulted in multiple benefits, both physically and emotionally.

Ever since Winter hit and I got my job camping out in the wilderness every other week, I had been finding myself lethargic and toxic.  I was eating low quality foods like ramen, simple grains, and cheap cheese all week, and then coming back home every other week to find myself “too busy” to keep up my regular yoga practice, or even exercise.  The wilderness therapy job did, however, leave me feeling spiritually fulfilled and in a calm and clear mental space, so when I was asked to create an experiment pertaining to the ethical precepts of Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga, I knew that I would like to work with that residual toxic feeling leftover from the job, and the lethargic feeling it left me with.

The Niyama Tapas deals directly with the internal “rubbish” of the body, and heating the body with activities such as asanas and pranayama as a way of expelling that rubbish.  It also pertains to eating and habits and breathing patterns as ways to internally cleanse the body.  In order to implement this internal cleansing process in my life, I first and foremost made it a point to resist that lazy urge not to get off my butt and move in the morning, and engage in some sort of physical activity (including asana and pranayama) every day.  I also committed myself to not eating when I was not hungry, which has been a bad habit of mine for years in times of stress and also in times of celebration.

At first it was extremely difficult to gain that initial impetus to roll out my yoga mat and do asana every morning, and then to abstain from eating breakfast for another stretch of time until I finished my pranayama exercises.  I started my experiment late because I had to finish my last week of work, but for a full ten days (including teacher training days), I managed to engage in at least one hour of yoga practice and one hour of other internal heat-producing exercises per day.  After the first few days, it became much easier to motivate myself to start, once the life-enhancing effects started to show up in my body as a feeling of lightness and increased energy.  The yoga practices almost completely erased my compulsion to eat out of stress rather than out of hunger, and it even had the unexpected result of making sweets much less appealing to me, as well.

I think that the root cause of all of these changes in my attitude and body was the heightened sense of connection to my body that my Yoga practice brings to my life.  I have found other subtle changes like an increased awareness of exactly how different foods make my body feel, an increased sensitivity to other people’s bodies and feelings, and of my surroundings in general.  I find myself able to stay calm and centered more easily in stressful situations, and I am less and less drawn to toxic substances like alcohol and caffeine.

Also, I think part of what allowed me to break the habit of non-action was the physical cleansing of my external environment after finishing my final week of work.  I undertook the daunting project of cleaning my car.  I organized things, took them out and put them in storage, and spent several hours scrubbing the inside and outside until my friends thought I had gotten a new car.  It sounds so superficial, but that simple act of cleaning out the space in which I practically live, had the effect of cleaning out my mind, as well, and giving me the feeling of organization and the ability to be productive in my life.  That type of cleaning falls more under the category of the Sauca Niyama, pertaining to the inner and outer cleanliness of body and mind, but having done that helped immensely in creating the space for me to start the process of creating the inner heat of Tapas to clean out my physical body.

In terms of Tapas, I got the immense gift from this experiment of experiencing firsthand how creating an inner heat can cleanse the body and how that can radiate out to so many aspects of our lives and beings.  It makes sense that creating heat in the body would cause it to sweat and breathe out toxins, and ignite the digestive fires to eliminate toxins as efficiently as possible, as well.  Now I know kinesthetically the lightness of being that comes with having fewer toxins in my body and how the connectedness with my body that comes with that, translates to a natural decreased desire to put more toxins in my body.  I am also beginning to see how working on this one Niyama, has translated in to a natural reinforcement of all of the Niyamas and Yamas in my life, as well. I am grateful to have had this opportunity, and I believe it has brought me back (at least semi-permanently) to my old habits of regular activity and daily yoga practice, which benefit me so greatly.