Ashtanga Vinyasa Practice and the 3 gunas

Guna is a Sanskrit word for quality or attribute. There are 3 gunas:

  • tamas: state of darkness, inertia, inactivity, and materiality.
  • rajas: state of energy, action, change, and movement
  • Sattva: state of harmony, balance, joy, and intelligence

While we strive towards sattva and reduce tamas and rajas, it is impossible to posses sattva only. There are elements of tamas rajas in us.

Our ashtanga practice reflect all these 3 gunas, how they exist together and how they affect the way we should live.

Tamas: When we practice on the mat, we should strive to engage the muscles required to do the pose, and not without engagement, i.e. the inertia to not do things. Do not be lazy. Set to finish what we started. But our body need rest, and hence tamas comes into play, in the form of shavasana. So Tamas is not entirely bad.

Rajas: It’s about the energy, the activeness, the movement. Our vinyasa should flow with energy, generate the heat within us. We should have the energy or the fire, find this energy when doing any task. The energy will give us the motivation to carry on. But too much of rajas is also not good. We expend our energy unnecessary and send ourself to state of inertia. Thus, there is a need to control our rajas.

Sattva: It’s about harmony, how am I feeling calm and at peace with ourself. Similarly, when practising on the mat, we should find stability within our pose, breathing normally with calmness. We should be focus. There shouldn’t be any rush. We shouldn’t be panting. It is in this state; that we realize what and why we are doing this.

Hence, all there gunas plays a role to our life and our ashtanga practice reflect these attributes. Next, we need to reflect upon ourself after practice and evaluate how to mainly the gunas within us.