Monday, October 18, 2010
Finding the Middle: Satva
The Samkhya school of classical yoga philosophy describes the universe and all its qualities using three main humors, called Gunas. These are Rajas, Tamas, Sattva.
Rajas is generally building, full of fire, or energizing, while Tamas is generally grounding, calming, and inert. The skillful negotiation of the two brings us to the precious middle path, Sattva. If we went into a yoga class feeling sluggish and tired and came out feeling wired and spastic, we would not have served ourselves other than to experience the opposite end of miserable. Instead, we use the balance of steadiness and ease (in the yoga Sutras, Patanjali calls these sukum and sthirum) to bring us to the place where we feel both energized and calm. We are neither looking to be revved-up and wired nor to be too sluggish and sleepy, but rather to optimize the perfect balance, the Sattvic state. This is why savasana is so essential at the end of an energizing yoga practice. This is also why it sometimes helps to go on a gentle walk after a very relaxing practice. Middle feels like home.
For those of us who love to bliss out on Rajas and train or play really hard, don't worry. Just remember that there is a time to sit and meditate too. Also, those of us who could indulge in Tamas and stay on our cozy meditation cushions all day long and then celebrate with a box of Hatch Family Chocolates, well, maybe you could try at least walking to the Avenues to get your chocolate.
Most importantly, these principles remind us that balance is not only comfortable, but optimal. If you need to add more Tamas to your life, more ease, come to my Restore class at Sego Lily (see schedule on the left side of this email). If you could balance out some sluggishness by adding a little Rajas, come to my flow class on Tuesday morning. Yes, it's early but it feels great.