In yogic philosophy, it is believed that all of the universe is made of three complimentary qualities, called gunas. The three are Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas. These three qualities are in all things and they create what are the essential aspects of nature: matter, energy, and consciousness. We humans have these three aspects as we are a microcosm of the universe. Tamas is the Sanskrit word for the guna relating to matter, and is translated as heaviness or darkness. Rajas is the guna relating to energy, and is sometimes translated as attachment or passion. Sattva is the guna relating to consciousness, and is one of those Sanskrit words that is really difficult to translate directly into English. Sattva may be considered as light or spiritual essence. We have these three gunas within us at all times and they are constantly in flux. We may have one of these qualities that is predominant in us most of the time, yet this can and does change. We have the ability to change our gunas, whereas a rock cannot. A rock is predominantly tamasic. While a person can be predominantly tamasic, they can change and become more rajasic for example.
Many of us come to yoga in an effort to bring a greater balance into our lives. True balance comes when we are in touch with our nature, identify where we are at any given time with these gunas in our life, and make changes accordingly to bring them better into balance. Listening deeply to our body, mind, and emotions, we can find how to bring harmony and balance back on and off our mat. Start paying attention to what aspects are most predominant in you, so that you can figure out how to bring about balance. If your most predominant aspect is Tamas (the more heavy, couch potato-like guna), how can you bring more activity and light into your life? If your most predominant aspect is Rajas (the Tazmanian devil like whirlwind guna), how can you bring more steadiness and focus into your life? If your most predominant aspect is Sattva (your head is up in the clouds), how can you bring more grounded action in your life?
We can play with balance of our gunas in our practice of the asanas – in for example Ardha Chandrasana. Try being tamasic (or heavy) and practice this pose. It may be hard to lift the top leg or bring energy up into the standing leg. Then play with a rajasic or super energized Half Moon – what happens when you are trying too hard? Now play as if you were light, grounded and energized…how does that feel?
Remember it is a dance, this balancing act of our gunas and our life!