Often in January, the flurry to classes and activity brings a wave of newbies to the yoga studio. Its a wonderful time of exploration and enthusiastic endeavour. By mid February, the wave turns to a trickle, and the newly established yogis are getting settled into a routine.
There is a principle that sits behind all yoga. Known or unknown even to some teachers, it is this. That all of life is governed by a flow of energy, and that energy can move in many forms and flow with a spectrum of momentum.
Consider a river, in the height of spring, as it flows down the mountain, waterfalls are plentiful and plunge down the rocks in a gushing, tumbling, pushing momentum. This is likened to the energy of rajas. Rajas is the momentum of action, fast flowing, agitation, inherent in movement.
Now think of the still water, an eddy, a pool that has run off the main river, and the water has become silty and muddy. This still water, and its inherent deadness, is likened to the energy of tamas. Tamas is the darkness, depression and lethargy of inherent in illness.
And finally imagine the bubbling brook. The part of the river that runs smoothly over boulders, dappled in sunlight, clear water flowing smoothly. This is likened to the energy of sattva. Sattva is the principle of peace, the energy inherent in calm, peaceful, graceful, balanced action.
These three principles, rajas, tamas and sattva, are inherent in all aspects of life. Everything we do. eat, experience can be rajasic, tamasic or sattvic. Often, we will know ourselves to be affiliated to one of these energies more often, but all three will interplay in our lives. We come out of balance, when one of the energies – they are called the gunas – becomes predominant. The healthiest option is that we flow between all three, and perhaps that we learn to prefer and create the essence of sattva in all things we do.
All yoga asana practice can be undertaken in orientation to these principles. There will be participants who want to attack their yoga. Sweat, drip and breathe like a steam train through their practice. These will be the yogis who can’t stay for savasana, too busy. Ashtanga, vinyasa flow, advanced levels and anything with the name power will be their perfect class. While others will come to yoga only for savasana. Restorative yoga, yin and meditation classes will be their dream class.
Understanding your own momentum, the balance of rajas and tamas in your life, the time you are spending in sattva is part of the journey of yoga. from those early days of signing up, you can tell that yoga is working in your life when you start to become more aware of your habits, and whether they serve you. Start to notice whether your momentum is balanced, or has a predominance. And finally you will start to notice whether the yoga class you have chosen, is exacerbating your dominant guna, or helping to change momentum, and ultimately, change your life.