Discipline the Tongue

Integral Yoga Teachings   |   March 21, 2014

“A spiritual seeker’s first duty is to have good control over the tongue.
Without control of the tongue, we can forget about spirituality.
Control in both ways: eating and talking.” ~Sri Swami Satchidananda

discipline the tongue 2In my weekly hatha yoga classes, I often share a lesson from The Golden Present. I recently used two readings (Jan. 14 and 18) on the importance of discipline in our lives. We especially liked hearing that discipline powers up our spiritual practice so that we can launch ourselves like rockets past the gravitational pull of nature and our senses.

I ended with this reading from March 22: “A spiritual seeker’s first duty is to have good control over the tongue. Without control of the tongue we can forget about spirituality.” Our class was impressed by the extraordinarily strong, direct quality of this teaching–we had to take it to heart.

We use our tongues in so many different ways, that its discipline can also take many forms. In the ethical precepts of yama and niyama, we found a wonderful framework for considering this essential discipline from every possible angle! Here is our list–I’m sure you will be able to add more ideas of your own.

Ideas for Discipline of the Tongue based on the Ethical Precepts of Yama and Niyama

Ahimsa (non-violence): no unkind speech; cruelty-free diet

Satya (benevolent truthfulness): speak only the truth and only with kind intention; be honest and clear about what you eat, where it came from, how it will affect you

Asteya (non-stealing): in conversations, give the speaker your entire attention (rather than planning what you will say next); do not interrupt or selfishly steer the conversation back to yourself

Aparigraha (non-greed): do not be greedy in your speech, dominating the conversation so that others have no opportunity to speak; do not be greedy when you eat—learn how much is enough (“Enough is as good as a feast.” –folk saying)

Brahmacharya (lit. “walking with God”–seeing the Divine in everything; also interpreted as abstinence): experiment with silence (abstaining from speech) as a spiritual practice; see food as Divine Mother made manifestdiscipline the tongue 1

Saucha (purity): purify your speech by using no crude language or swear words; purify your diet by omitting refined sugars, hydrogenated oils, artificial ingredients, and factory-farmed animal products

Santosha (contentment): no complaining–let your speech express gratitude, acceptance, and contentment, even as you work to make the world a better place; practice mindful eating, enjoying and being content with your food

Tapas (effort, austerity, self-discipline): all the suggestions here could be seen as tapas – practices of self-discipline; this might also be where we speak the difficult truths with intent to heal and bring about change; in diet, tapas might mean practicing mitahara (“spare diet”) or putting extra effort into a dietary change you want to make, such as giving up sugar, pop, alcohol, coffee or meat

Svadhyaya (self-study): observe your speech habits—what can you learn about yourself? Observe your eating habits in the same way; learn more about food and nutrition

Ishvara Pranidhana (devotion and surrender to the Divine): chant, sing songs that uplift you, repeat a mantram, say grace before eating—expressing thanks, acknowledging God in the food, dedicating that energy to doing good in the world

Bhavani Ambrosi took her Integral Yoga teacher training in February/March 1994 – an exciting, icy time at the ashram with multiple power outages! She lives and teaches in Duluth, Minnesota.

(by Bhavani Ambrosi, from the May, 2013 IYTA Newsletter)


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