Speak Your Truth
Talking about morals is not the glamorous side of yoga. It’s not finally getting your legs behind your head or how to do a handstand press. It’s probably not going to inspire any #goals or bring a stampede of excited new students pouring into yoga classes. It may not be what you think you came for.
However, despite their ancient provenance (circa 250 C.E.) and Sanskrit names, many of the Yamas, or the ethical touchstones, outlined in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras are remarkably applicable to modern life. One such Yama is Satya, meaning truth. The practice of yoga encourages us to discover our own truths, reconcile ourselves to them, and act on them.
Speaking your truth can be scary. It requires a step away from conformity. It feels risky to show something so intimate and to possibly alienate people who may not agree. But why would you mould yourself into someone else’s version of the world? Finding our inner voices and turning them into outer voices is a stepping stone on the path to fully embodying ourselves.
When you hear ‘speak your truth’, you may imagine someone declaiming from the mountain tops, maybe testifying in court or tapping the big bully on the shoulder and explaining a few things to them. But it doesn’t have to be anything so dramatic to be powerful.
On the most basic level, speaking truth means not lying. Let’s take that as the minimum you can do. From there, how can you grow your voice in a positive way?
You don’t have to perform at a poetry slam, stage a Seinfeld-style Airing of Grievances, or post a manifesto on Facebook to speak your truth. In little ways every day, you have opportunities to stand up for what’s fair, what’s right, and what you believe. Sometimes your ‘speaking’ can even go unspoken if your actions take the place of your words. As long as you are not a passive bystander, nodding along with something you know to be unjust, you get points for Satya. Might you ruffle some feathers? Yes. Might you have to overcome your shyness, might you stumble over your words? Yes. You don’t have to be eloquent or polished. You just need to speak or act in the service of truth.
5 Ways to Speak Truth
1. When asked for your opinion, speak from the heart.
You can do this without being harsh or hurtful. There is a nice way to say almost anything. Just because you are a truth speaker doesn’t mean you should be an a**hole. Don’t become that super annoying person who takes every social interaction as an opportunity to spout off. Let’s use our Satya on the things that really matter, not petty little matters. Speaking your truth is not an act of anger, an attempt to bring others down, or a way to get even.
2. When not asked your opinion, speak up.
If you have something to say, you should be seen and heard. One of the hardest things to do is speak out against conventional wisdom or established practices. Just because something has always been done a certain way doesn’t mean that it’s the right way. Change for the better often only comes when it’s called for.
3. When you are commenting online, act as if you are speaking face to face.
If you wouldn’t say what you’re typing IRL, don’t post it on someone’s Instagram. Never hide behind the presumed anonymity of social media. People are people and words can wound. The internet can be a wonderful place to build community but it can also offer a false sense of unreality. Leaving someone a mean comment is the same thing as dropping a nasty note in their locker, except it lasts longer. Teach your kids to act the same.
4. When you are making purchasing decisions, your wallet is your voice.
Don’t be complacent about the companies you support. We tend to think that the little guy can’t make a difference in the face of corporations, but your money talks. Buy the change you want to see in the world.
5. Know your facts.
Between the accusations that real news is fake and the reality of the proliferation of fake news, especially online, you may be tempted to throw up your hands and declare that truth is dead, or at least gravely ill. This is not the case. A little intelligent research (reputable sources!) and determination will most often reveal where the truth lies.
Wouldn’t it be easier to not make waves? Yes, it would, but yogis are not here to be quiet. When you find your voice in support of yourself and others, yoga, ethically speaking, has got your back.