I am loving having more light in my days. It feels … lighter! But I mean it as in less weight. This play on words (which had escaped me until now) has prompted me to reflect on luminosity and the yogic concept of sattva, one the the three gunas—qualities, attributes, or properties of things. Everything in and around us has the three of them, in different configurations and proportions. Apart from sattva‘s luminosity (also harmony, goodness, purity), there is rajas (passion, movement, dynamism, energy, change) and tamas (inertia, lethargy, darkness, materiality). We do need a balance of the three, to a certain degree, although sattva is the one we are looking to cultivate the most, as it is the one we tend to be most lacking in. But what is this quality? When we meet someone luminous—and I am lucky that I have—what do we mean? Kia often talks of the purpose of yoga as vidya, the ability to see clearly. And in order to see, one needs light, inner wisdom.
The gunas are in food, behaviour, the afterlife, energy … Everything! Eddie Stern compares them to a candle: tamas is the wax, rajas the flame and sattva the light. Eknath Easwaran relates them to different physical states of water: tamas is ice: frozen, inert, unmoving, trapped in a block. Rajas is like when ice beings to melt: it goes everywhere, it is difficult to contain, has no focus. Sattva is steam, it can make a locomotive move. We need the three of them, ice, water and steam, but ideally, we want to harness the elements into energy, so we can use it for the good of the world. Below, I am giving you pointers on how to do that. As a bonus, I am adding here David Garrigues’ podcast, on how to go from a clouded, disturbed mind (Citta Vikshepah) to a clear, lucid, settled, blessed mind (Citta Prasad).
PS: This block of classes finish this week, on the 29 March. We are back on the 15 April, with a new introductory course. See below!
Rosina, myself and a few others will be practicing at the Arlington most mornings, from around 7.30am. Come and join us! It is only £2 for the space and you can feel the energy of the group (and get some help with postures).
What I have been reading At the end of March and the beginning of April, I am doing a course on chapter 2 of the Bhagavad Gita (including recitation!) with my wonderful teacher James Boag. It is my birthday too and I cannot think of a better way to celebrate another year around the luminous sun. The Gita is one of my favourite books, one I re-read when I am questioning something about yoga. This is what Krishna tells Arjuna about the gunas (it is taken from Eknath Easwaran’s translation, chapter 14, verses 6–18):
Sattva – pure, luminous, and free from sorrow – binds us with attachment to happiness and wisdom. Rajas is passion, arising from selfish desire and attachment. These bind the Self with compulsive action. Tamas, born of ignorance, deludes all creatures through heedlessness, indolence, and sleep.
Sattva binds us to happiness; rajas binds us to action. Tamas, distorting our understanding, binds us to delusion.
Sattva predominates when rajas and tamas are transformed. Rajas prevails when sattva is weak and tamas overcome. Tamas prevails when rajas and sattva are dormant.
When sattva predominates, the light of wisdom shines through every gate of the body. When rajas predominates, a person runs about pursuing selfish and greedy ends, driven by restlessness and desire. When tamas is dominant a person lives in darkness – slothful, confused, and easily infatuated.
Those dying in the state of sattva attain the pure worlds of the wise. Those dying in rajas are reborn among people driven by work. But those who die in tamas are conceived in the wombs of the ignorant.
The fruit of good deeds is pure and sattvic. The fruit of rajas is suffering. The fruit of tamas is ignorance and insensitivity. From sattva comes understanding; from rajas, greed. But the outcome of tamas is confusion, infatuation, and ignorance.
Those who live in sattva go upwards; those in rajas remain where they are. But those immersed in tamas sink downwards.
What I have been practicing As you know, if you practice pranayama with me, I am a fan of the metronome. I find it necessary to be able to get to know my breath, and to extend it properly (rather than unconsciously counting fast or slow). I used to spend a lot of my practice counting, but numbers are not sattvic. If anything, they are rajasic, always moving, linked to possession. When practicing pranayama, one is meant to have a sattvic mind, so how can we harmonise this with the need to be able to control the rate of inhale to exhale?I found Natalie’s blog online and she provides a technique combining metronome, digital counting and OM recitation. Although it is as challenging as rubbing you belly and tapping you head at the same time, it works if you stick to it, and train the mind and body through repetition.
Assisted practice is the traditional way of learning Ashtanga yoga. It allows each student individual guidance from the teacher and space to explore their own needs.
• Find out how assisted practice works
• Learn the key postures in the Primary Series
• Discover how to remember the sequence
• Be taught the breath pattern and how to monitor the breath
• Deepen your understanding of the postures
• Be introduced to the benefits of the practice
• Feel confident to attend regular drop in classes
This class is suitable for complete beginners, those who practice another form or anyone wanting to refresh their practice.
Drop in £15/£12 Arlington members, concession per session
£35/£30 Arlington members, concession for the course
A practitioner who came to the January course said to me yesterday: ‘I cannot imagine any other way of practicing now’. Me neither. She is right!
MONTHLY PRANAYAMA CLASSES
at the Arlington Baths
Tuesday 30 April 2019
Tuesday 28 May 2019
17.00–18.15, £11 | £9, included in all class cards
These classes are for those who are complete pranayama beginners, practitioners who have done pranayama but don’t have a regular practice, or for those who have a yoga or meditation practice and want to delve deeper – all are welcome.
The breath is key to Ashtanga yoga practice. It allows for the deepening of postures and enhances their benefits. Each session will develop the tools and techniques required to help you set, refine and sustain an individual pranayama practice.
During these sessions you will:
* Learn about the breath – to observe it, to follow it and to enhance it
* Learn to deepen your breath, allowing you to become more aware and mindful, calm and focused
* Learn preparations and purification techniques that will help to boost the benefits of pranayama
* Learn more about how this practice relates to the Ashtanga yoga system.