How The Four Agreements Can Strengthen Your Yoga Practice

Every practice we commit to becomes how we live our lives.
Yoga was the teacher that first shifted my life dramatically, and the spiritual self-help book The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz was the second. Both have changed the entire way I look at others and myself.
four-agreementsThe Four Agreements certainly changed the way I practice asana. Breaking down a yoga pose by way of these four agreements has been the biggest growth spurt in yoga I’ve ever experienced. Each agreement is quite simple, yet extremely demanding. But isn’t this true of every discipline worth pursuing?
If you’re not yet familiar with The Four Agreements, they are principals that create a code of conduct based on Toltec wisdom. The Toltec path educates us to abandon beliefs and stories that are untrue and do not serve us, leading us toward love, happiness, and ultimate freedom.
In order, the four agreements outlined in the book are:

  • Be impeccable with your word
  • Take nothing personally
  • Assume nothing
  • Do your best

I read this book five years ago in two sittings, and when I put it down, I thought, I’ve been doing everything wrong. Verbatim, that’s what I thought. It wasn’t a sad epiphany – it was inspiring.
These agreements act as a set of tools to help set you free from unnecessary suffering, and bring more happiness.
Let’s begin with the first agreement and look at how it can change a yoga pose. Three more articles are headed your way – one for each remaining agreement – and all containing yoga poses to apply to the particular agreement we are studying.


Agreement #1: Be impeccable with your word

The first agreement, be impeccable with your word, is a much more difficult order than it initially seems. Most people will tell you they are honest. But expressing your opinions without first analyzing your thoughts is not the same as being impeccable with your word.
Our word includes our thoughts, but also our actions, emotions, and attitudes. Committing to the impeccability of your word means to express yourself from a position of truth, love, and kindness. This demands compassion and acceptance of others, but it has to begin with compassion and acceptance of ourselves.

Our word includes our thoughts, but also our actions, emotions, and attitudes.

I catch myself regularly in the pattern of saying what I wish were true, versus what I know is my honest reality.
To apply this concept to our yoga practice, how frequently do we ignore pain or discomfort? How likely are we to ‘cheat’ in a yoga pose because the correct form is too challenging, or not yet attainable?
If we sincerely desire a strong physical yoga practice, this is reflected in how often we practice and try new yoga poses, or commit to strengthening the postures already in our arsenal.
On this topic, how do you define ‘strong’?
For some, it takes great restraint to not constantly push themselves to the very limit, and often beyond.
Below are two yoga poses to help you physically practice your impeccability of word.
Talk yourself into letting each pose feel different, and backing off a lot at first to take it slow. Perhaps from there, you can slowly progress into a deeper version of the pose if you’ve concluded this aligns with your authentic needs in the moment.

1. Revolved Triangle pose

This is a tough pose for most of us. First, ask yourself how it feels to be in it. Investigate if a different version of how it typically looks is useful to accommodate what your body needs at this moment.
Sometimes the floor is easily accessible for your bottom arm, and when it’s not, if we acknowledge this without judgment, this can result in surprising contentment. If the floor feels far away, use a block for extra support. That’s why yoga blocks (and yoga props in general) exist . . . to support us! Play with the easiest version of the pose first.
Notice the adjustments you’re willing to make in this pose, and where you feel resistant to change. Ask why. It might be refreshing to listen to the true answer . . . and it will definitely be empowering to be physically impeccable with your word.

2. High Crescent Lunge pose

If you find yourself consistently losing your balance in this pose, it’s another perfect opportunity to practice the first agreement. It’s jarring to feel off-kilter. You recognize something needs to change, but what?
The distance between your feet, and the width they are placed, matters a great deal. If the distance between your feet is too wide, it’s tough to feel stable. If the stance is too short, you can’t fully engage. It’s harder work muscularly, but it feels way better than falling out of the pose every time.
If you feel resistant to trial and error, take a moment to approach the questions of what needs to shift and why with curious honesty and kindness towards yourself.
Being impeccable with your word is a tall order. We’ll fail over and over, saying what we wish was true, and coming from a place where our stories do the telling, instead of our truth. But when we’re being impeccable, we know when a pose just doesn’t feel quite right, and we honor that awareness instead of forcing ourselves into unsafe places.
Employing impeccability will lead us away from how we currently do things that don’t serve us towards actions and truths that will.

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Lara Falberg

Lara has been teaching yoga since 2006, trained in Atlanta, now residing in Columbus Ohio. Her website is a yoga teacher resource offering verbals cues, mini sequences, class themes, and studio reviews. Her novel Yoga Train is about a group of people who travel through the yoga teacher training experience together. Follow her on Instagram (@iworkbarefoot), Facebook and Twitter.

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