To release stress, be happy & feel healthy
“When one rises above the three gunas that originate in the body; one is freed from birth, old age, disease, and death; and attains enlightenment” (Bhagavad Gita 14.20)
The Sanskrit term Sattva, means peace, purity and equanimity. The photo I took of this beautiful lotus that had flowered in my humble back garden pond during the summer, to me, simply radiates and embodies the qualities of Sattva.
In the yoga and Ayurveda tradition, Sattva is a virtue considered essential for cultivating a happy, balanced life because when we infuse this quality into our thoughts, actions and intentions, it helps our days to go more smoothly and we can take a calm approach to life.
Sattva is one of the three Maha Gunas, known as “the supreme qualities or attributes of the mind” or primal qualities we find in nature, Rajas (Action) and Tamas (Inertia) being the other two.
Rajas, is the energy that is essential for initiating action and change. It has a light, mobile quality that we can associate with Vata dosha. When balanced, it helps us to feel motivated, inspired, creative and to take action as we express Ojas – our health and vitality. Too much rajas leads to the tendency to over-do and over-work, an inability to stop still and rest which can lead to burn-out (a Pitta quality) and leaves us more prone to feeling anxiety, overwhelm, anger and fear.
At the other end of the spectrum Tamas is the quality of inertia, heaviness and materialism, in that it is earth-bound. When balanced it gives the feeling of being settled, steady and grounded, life is organised and structured and we take care and nourish ourselves through good nutrition, take rest and conserve energy when needed.
Too much Tamas can lead to attachment, the clinging to material things or people for our happiness. When expressed as stagnation in mind and emotions, we can lack motivation and vitality and it can lead to depression and apathy (Kapaha qualities).
All three Gunas are interacting strands of energy that follow the natural cycles of life, which we can see in the seasons and circadian rhythms. Rajas to wake us up in the morning and get us moving, Tamas to help us slow down, rest and sleep at night.
When these two energies are in balance, we are more likely to experience Sattva, a feeling of harmony in our relationship to ourselves and with all those around us. We could say that to feel Sattvic, is to express heartfelt qualities.
The Dance of the Gunas
The Gunas are like a dance of energies, that rise, ebb and flow. We can see them playing out in our energy levels, mood and emotions, thoughts, speech and actions.
You can wake up one morning and feel a sense of balance, peace, calm and connection with the world, this is a lovely Sattvic state. Another day wake feeling anxious or wired, find it hard to concentrate, rush around losing things, become irritated and impatient - this is Rajas at play. Another time wake up feeling heavy and sluggish, keep hitting the snooze button and find it hard to get up and be motivated – this is Tamas.
The gunas are inter-changeable, though sometimes we can get locked or stuck in a particular one.
Rajas is the energy that drive us to feel like we need to keep moving, to achieve and acquire things in life. In excess, it has a stimulating quality that can lead to the search for a quick fix, perhaps leading to manipulative, addictive or obsessive behaviours.
Too much Tamas energy can be immobilizing, a tendency towards procrastination, lethargy, doubt, insecurity, wanting to numb out and not make decisions or take action when needed.
Sattva is a liberating quality to build more resilience so we can navigate through stressful times and meet challenges. It is the ability to “keep calm in the midst of the storm”. We can do this though eating, sleeping, nourishing ourselves well and building physical, mental and emotional strength. The practice of yoga and meditation tend to bring balance to the Gunas and are more likely to lead us to a sattvic state. Even the food we consume influences the gunas.
5 Ways to increase Sattva
1. Eat Sattvic foods: Fresh, wholesome nutritious foods, such as Avocados, dates, bananas, nuts, leafy green vegetables. These foods are densely packed with high levels of phyto-
nutrients that increase Ojas – vitality.
2. Take time out to unplug from devices: Breathe deep and sit in stillness, preferably outside, or take a walk out in nature.
3. Practice Metta Bhavana Meditation to open, brighten and lighten the heart-mind.
4. Consider others: Be thoughtful and kind in your words and actions to reduce judgemental thoughts and opinions.
5. Give, simply for the joy of giving. Do something for someone else without expecting
anything in return and spread joy!
With awareness and conscious intentions and actions, we can positively influence the gunas with healthy lifestyle choices. We can be free from fear and experience qualities of joy, satisfaction, contentment and grace.
As we move towards Winter, nature is slowing down, going to sleep and hibernating. Tamas is more prevalent, this is the season where we may well experience low moods and energy levels. As we align with nature, this is a signal to sleep and rest more and eat anabolic foods that are going to keep us nourished, strong and support our immune systems.
Ayurveda & Yoga Workshop
If you are interested to know more, these are qualities we will be exploring in my next workshop on Sunday 20th November. I will be talking about ways we can cultivate a Sattvic way of living and increase Ojas – Vitality.
We will be exploring practical and simple ways to increase wellbeing with nutrition, essential oils, meditation, yoga and deep relaxation through sound healing.
The aim of the workshop is that you will come away with some top tips and techniques, yummy recipes, free gifts and feel inspired to use Ayurveda & Yoga in your life to enhance your health and wellbeing.