Week 236: Rockin’ Rajas
Off to my second YAA teacher training workshop of the year!
I have been thoroughly enjoying my experiences with many different yoga teachers from Edmonton and area. This weekend also was a chance to meet another senior teacher whom I seem to know by name but don’t know in person. Funny enough, I clearly didn’t know who the teacher was because I began setting up beside her! Not sure if you’ve ever experienced a yoga class where you set up facing one way to only set up a completely different way with another teacher. This is essentially what happened...
I had assumed we’d continue facing south in the community hall space so I positioned myself behind others. What I didn’t know was that Beth, the senior teacher, was also in the process of positioning her mat - in front of the group! Needless to say, I felt a bit silly; yet, she wanted all of the wanna-be teachers in a circle anyway. So, lucky me, I got to sit beside the facilitator and absorb her yoga knowledge.
I love the variety that each teacher brings to each workshop. It is almost one of the reasons for excitement as I walk through the doors. What will we talk about and practice today?
We dove straight into practice with a focus on verses from the Bhagavad Gita. Something that I am not totally aware of, let alone have read. So I just absorbed what Beth read from the verses. What she was quoting was chapter 14 versus 1-20. This portion of the sacred text is highlighting the Gunas, the three strands of nature. Not something I am familiar with in the least.
Let me explain…or at least my understanding thus far.
The Gunas are believed to be the main forces of life. There are three Gunas - Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. Each have their own specific attributes that one can relate to in life. What makes this interesting to me, is that there are only three. I would have thought that there are many more ways to look at the nature of our lives. But nonetheless, within this philosophy, these three must encompass all parts of being human.
Sattva, in simple terms, means joy. The energy is radiant with purity, calmness and light. Whereas, Rajas, is more focused on action and attainment. I took it as more driven and “full of restless energy”. Maybe a good analogy is the Energizer Bunny who keeps going and going and going. The third and final guna, is Tamas. Tamas is linked with being fixed or immobile. It can be dull, lethargic and unmotivated. I almost think Tamas could be defined by depression and apathy.
To pull these three Gunas together, my mind wants to put them on a continuum whereby Tamas is on the far left, Rajas on the far right and Sattva is in the middle. Although I have no evidence that this is the case, it make sense to me that falling too far into busyness takes you away from Sattva. Conversely, being listless can take you too far into the Tamas end of the spectrum. In the interpretation of the Bhagavad Gita it is explained that being one with Sattva, you must be absent of Tamas and Rajas. It only makes sense that being one and not the other is true. But maybe it isn’t an all or nothing thing or what I might think is a “good” Guna versus a not so good Guna.
So you might be wondering how this worked in a yoga practice? How do you bring in the concepts of the Bhagavad Gita into a class setting?
Beth did a wonderful job of setting the ‘how-to’ scene. First she had us sitting in a crossed-legged position (Siddhasana). We were directed to focus on the sits bones and to centre ourselves over the two bones (ischial tuberosities to be exact!) From there, we were directed to shift to the right sits bone then to the left. The emphasis was to feel the support of each bone while the body was positioned off centre. After moving sideways, we then moved forward and backwardly coming to the front of the sits bones and on the back of the sits bones. And then once again to a centred position on the sits bones.
This direct and purposeful movement helped us settle into our seated position. Following this movement, Beth verbally described the Gunas by reading the Bhagavad Gita, The New Translation by Stephen Mitchell. She asked us to reflect on ourselves. Specifically, she asked about two scenarios. The first was how we were feeling when we arrived that morning versus how we felt in that moment of yoga.
That was easy for me!
My life is Rajas all over the place. So when I arrived, it was definitely Rajas. But as we settled into practice, I surely had moved into Sattva.
My life is a constant go. From the moment I wake to the moment I put my head down on my pillow, I’m off with a purpose. At times my head is swirling with things to do, people I need to call, items I need to put away, big life things like fantasizing about getting my children’s photos albums up to date. Constant!
But to be honest, I do take one small moment in the morning for one thing. Time to say the Lord’s Prayer before I do anything else (like move out of bed) in the morning. I’m not super religious but very much spiritual. I honour that with gratitude every morning I wake.
Needless to say, this chapter of the Bhagavad Gita hit home. With further exploration and thought (and some small group work), I realized that when Rajas gets too busy, I fall hard and fast into Tamas. And even on a weekly basis, I can go-go-go until I give myself the break on Sunday whereby I don’t want to do a thing!
On the whole, this teacher training workshop hammered home how important yoga is for me. It is the time for Sattva. Now don’t get me wrong, there are other times Sattva does occur in my life, but most times it is Rajas.
Good? Bad? Otherwise?
My understanding though is that all three Gunas are key to life. Not necessarily having Sattva all the time is feasible nor good. At least that gives me pause.
Rockin’ Rajas, tolerate Tamas and smile into Sattva,
Oh - and one other interesting piece from this workshop. An off hand comment about my legs from Beth. Having over toned thighs represents anger. I just thought it meant I rode my bike a lot. Something to ponder…
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Aspiring Yoga Teacher
I've practiced yoga since I was a pre-teen and have always found it to keep me centered. I will be a teacher one day and this is my journey to discover teaching and practice.