Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Gunas

This week in my classes we have been talking about the three gunas (rajas, sattva, and tamas). The gunas are qualities of material things and activities. Everything in this physical world is a combination of the three gunas, and we experience them in what we see and what we experience. To summarize it you can look at any situation and ask is there to much (rajas), is there to little (tamas) or is there a harmonious balance (sattva).

Rajas: activating, stimulating, passion, accelerating, heating, and upward moving energy. Related to fire and air, corresponding with energy.

Tamas: stillness, quite, inertia, dark, cooling, and downward moving energy. Related to earth and water, corresponding with matter.

Sattva: balancing, optimizing, light, luminosity, corresponding with light (Consciousness).

We want to balance out these gunas. When I say balance I don’t mean you need X amount of rajas and X amount of tamas and X = X is Sattva. When I say balance I mean dynamic, it is ever changing. When you got up this morning you wanted more rajas then tamas. You want more energy than inertia and that will be more Sattva. When you go to bed you will have a more Sattva experience if you have more tamas then rajas. The other night I couldn’t sleep at all. I laid in bed for hours in the dark with my eyes closed and my brain was just spinning. I kept thinking…TAMAS I need more TAMAS. You see how it is a dynamic balance depending on the situation.

I really like thinking about these gunas when I practice yoga asana. Because in every pose we come into we can think: am I doing too much (rajas)? Am I not doing enough (tamas)? Or am I experiencing this harmony, this divine marriage of contrary complements (Sattva)? And depending on what you answer is you can make refinements to the pose so you can have a more Sattva experience.

The breath can be a great indicator on this. Once you come into your alignment (alignment is important because if you aren’t in good alignment and you are in pain because of your misalignment you won’t be able to focus on the quality of your breath or you gunas) turn your awareness to your breath. If you are breathing so slow you could just take a nap, then that is too much tamas, you aren’t doing enough. Make an adjustment to add more rajas to your experience. If the experience of your breath is you panting for air, that is too much rajas. Make an adjustment to bring some more tamas into your experience. If the experience of your breath is full and you feel a sense of ease and peace but at the same time alert and vital then you are experiencing a state of Sattva.

What is balance? What is optimal?
Whatever enhances and affirms life in any particular circumstance of time and place. It brings the opposites together in a dynamic way to create a dive marriage of contrary complements.

Resources: The Anusara Yoga Master Immersion Packet, By John Friend

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