YOGA AND HARMONY: SATTVA AND THE YOGA PATH
by SOSA Team Member and jungleyoga Founder, Randall O’Leary
Yoga, like other things people call ‘healthy’ is not guaranteed to grant you health. Like other medicines, you have to take the right thing in the right amount at the right time if it is going to have a positive and beneficial effect. There is no such thing as a ‘cure-all’; taken in the wrong ways, yoga can even rob us of health.
Hopefully we all are doing yoga to improve our health, physical power, happiness and connection to life. After all, this is what yoga was intended to invoke in us. This state of being which is a condition of peacefulness, harmony, true happiness and vibrant health is called in Sanskrit sattva. The literal translation of sattva is ‘the state of existing in truth’. It is the true harmony that yoga practice should be helping us achieve.
Let’s have a look at the qualities of our personal yoga practice. It does not matter if you practice at home or go to classes, your yoga has certain effects upon your mind and body. Ask yourself a few questions: What is the state of your mind and emotions after yoga? What is the state of your energy? Do you have attention and power to do the things you need to do after yoga? If you feel good after yoga, how long does that feeling last?
That good feeling after yoga is sattva, the state of truth and balance. We want it to last as long as possible; eventually turning it into a permanent state of being. The essential thing to remember is that good health, happiness and balance takes continual and sustained attention. You must cultivate it day by day if it is to become established within you.
A regular practice of yoga asanas and breathing is a good start towards sattva, as is a simple, clean and healthy diet (free of dogmas or extremes). There are a few other actions that yoga and Ayurveda deem necessary to promote sattva within us.
A regular practice of quiet meditation is said to be like nectar for the mind and the entire being. Meditation is the time where the mind is allowed to rest and ‘exist in truth’ (sattva). The most direct path to develop sattva is taking a short time out of your usual patterns and cultivating connection with the universal, the peaceful and the still. Too much physical or mental activity disturbs sattva.
With that said, most of us do too much. Another essential quality of cultivating sattva is rest. We need to make sure that we balance our activities with enough quiet time and calm. Rest can mean many things, one of which is sleep, but there are other equally powerful ways to rest. One can go to a peaceful and quiet garden and relax in the shade, do yoga nidra, read in a hammock or many other nurturing acts. The main idea is that you are calming yourself and regenerating your energy supply.
Exercise is the third part of the formula for encouraging the development of sattva. The body needs to be moved and exercised; our health is dependent upon it. However, not every exercise is created equal. Whether you work hard and intensely in your exercise (including yoga) or take it easy, you are trying to develop sattva. Don’t forget your overall goal! Try to make wise decisions about how you approach exercise.
Yoga and Ayurveda maintain that exercise should be the type that gives and builds energy, not the type that leaves you exhausted yet extremely stimulated.Eenergy-building exercise leaves you feeling light, clean, invigorated and clear. It often involves slightly slower movements that are connected to the breath. Remember, good breathing is what will make or break your energy-building yoga.
Try to keep in mind the direction of your life as you make choices. The greatest goal in yoga is the development of sattva, which will give meaning, depth and joy to your life. Yoga is the system of helping us to live in the best and brightest way we can, and sattva is the key to a successful and happy life. Meditate, rest and exercise to develop harmony and your life will continue to develop in positive directions.