How to include yoga in our daily routine – Part 1

For years, I have always felt good and at peace after each yoga practice and I think that is what yoga is about. It was only until this course that I realized there is much more than asanas! Hence, I would definitely like to add more yoga into my daily routine. But I am always tied for time, so I will implement it in the most easiest and sustainable way that suits my current lifestyle.
Here’s how. First of all, I will start with my thoughts. This requires no physical effort but more on awareness and mindfulness. Practice Yama at all times! This will be a guiding principle to make my daily decisions. Be it at work, at home, teaching kids or with friends.
Next will be food choices. I will be honest, it is impossible for me to avoid Rajasic and Tamasic food totally. However, I can definitely minimize them and choose more sattvic food not just for myself but also for my family.
Thirdly, I will be more mindful in my postures. For example, whenever I need to pick things up from the floor, instead of squatting down, I can bend from the hip, keeping back straight, to get a good stretch for the entire back and hamstring.
I will also take note of my standing posture. I have hyperextended knee and this probably explains my weak knee joint. Before this, I don’t even know knee can be hyperextended!
These are the few simple adjustments that I can add in my daily routine and I am confident I can practice this for a lifetime.

The Three Gunas and The Yogi Diet

What are the three Gunas

The three Gunas are fundamental attributes that creates the essential aspects of all nature – energy, matter and consciousness. All three gunas are always present and varies in their relative amounts. Each of us have the unique ability to consciously alter the levels of the gunas in our bodies and minds. A guna can be increased or decreased through the interaction and influence of external objects, lifestyle practices and thoughts. The three Gunas are Tamas, Rajas and Sattva.

Tamas

Tamas is a state of darkness, inertia, inactivity and materiality. Tamas manifests from ignorance and deludes all beings from their spiritual truths

Rajas

Rajas is a state of energy, action, change and movement. The nature of rajas is of attraction, longing and attachment and rajas strongly binds us to the fruits of our work.

Sattva

Sattva is a state of harmony, balance, joy and intelligence. Sattva is the guna that yogis seeks to achieve towards as it reduces Rajas and Tamas and thus makes liberation possible.

The Yogi Diet

The Yoga Diet is one the Five Principles of Yoga that improves one’s health and make you feel stronger. The yogi diet can also be classified under the three Gunas which are Sattvic, Rajasic and Tamasic.
Sattvic Food

  • The purest diet
  • Most suitable for any serious student of Yoga
  • Nourishes the body and maintains it in a peaceful state
  • Calms and purifies the mind, enabling it to function at its maximum potential
  • Leads to true health; a peaceful mind in control of a fit body, with a balanced flow of energy between them

Sattvic foods include:

  • Cereals
  • Wholemeal bread
  • Fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Pure fruit juices
  • Milk
  • Butter and cheese
  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Sprouted seeds
  • Honey and herb teas

Rajasic Food

  • Very spicy, bitter, sour, dry or salty food
  • Tilt the balance of mind-body equilibrium, feeding the body at the expense of the mind
  • Too much Rajastic food will over-stimulate the body and excite the passions, making the mind restless and uncontrollable
  • Eating in a hurry is also considered Rajasic

Rajasic foods include:

  • Hot substances, such as sharp spices or strong herbs
  • Stimulants such as coffee and teas
  • Eggs
  • Salt

Tamasic Food

  • A Tamasic Diet benefits neither the mind nor the body
  • Energy is withdrawn, powers of reasoning become clouded and a sense of inertia sets in
  • The body’s immunities to disease is affected and fills the mind with dark emotions, such as anger and greed
  • Overeating is also considered Tamasic

Tamasic food includes:

  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Alchohol
  • Fermented foods such as vinegar
  • Mushroom (Grow in darkness)
  • Deep fried food
  • Stale overripe substances

Reflections

In during practice in yoga, I came to realize that all three Gunas exists in us. Like an apple tree, some fruits are ripe; represents Sattvic, some are ripening; represents rajasic and some overripe; represents Tamasic. No matter what quality prevails, an element of each of the other two will always be present as well. Each Guna serves a purpose and contributes to an overall balanced way of living. Although many would feel that Tamas sound completely negative, we require the quality of Tamas every night when we settle in for sleep, as well as when our bodies need rest to recover from illness or periods of over-exhaustion. Rajas is the movement and activity of the body and mind. We need rajas to go about the business of our lives, from eating to working to entertainment. I feel that the key is to balance both of the two Gunas while cultivating Sattva as the predominate element.
Before I came into practice in yoga, my eating habits tend to go toward Tamasic food. As this energy takes forms it predominates and I gradually slipped into a mindless ignorance of my needs and turned into a sluggish resistance to life. Yoga teachings made me understand the elements and the need to balance them. And to balance them I would have to start with my eating habits. With constant practice I began switching more to Sattvic food with a dose of Rajasic and Tamasic food to keep the balance.

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As we embrace Sattva and begin to attend in balancing our Gunas, we must remember to be gentle and supportive with ourselves. 

The Three Gunas

Written by Kyra Clarke with inputs from Master Paalu

The Three Gunas have been defined as ‘the three fundamental qualities’ (A Sanskrit-English Dictionary 1866). That is, they are the fundamental ways of characterising people, foods, etc. These characteristics are present in all of us in different quantities and degree, combining to make a whole: we all have parts of the three gunas within our personalities. These characteristics cannot be judged as good or bad, positive or negative. Instead, what is most important is that we learn to recognise the three gunas and become aware of their effect on our lives. An experience of any of the gunas is only pure once we recognise them and create something or enhance or step away from our experience of them. The experience of them should be the instigator nor the stimulus to perform any future actions.

 

Traditionally, tamas means darkness – in Master Paalu’s words, leeching from others. An example might be using others to achieve your own goals while never giving back. In our lives it is important to reduce the influence of this guna. Refusal to come to light of things and using others’ efforts as a platform with little or no contribution from the individual to grow, taking full credit for the growth, if any. In relation to food, Tamasic food refers to, food that is not generated from the fundamental 5 compounds of nature primarily, namely fire, earth, water, space and air. On the other hand food is consumed through third party processing namely an animal or by processing it via machines. For example, when a chicken is consumed, the chicken is third hand protein, carbo or nutrients. The chicken would have consumed the worms or other food to grow its flesh. By consuming the chicken we also accumulate all those food consumed and processed by the chicken’s bodily systems.

 

My understanding of rajas comes from experiences of anger, although in translations from Sanskrit, rajas has been defined as ‘passion’ among other things. Rajas includes those things that stimulate us and get us fired up, although we must not become dependent on such stimulation in our daily lives.

 

For example, it would be ineffective for me to rely on becoming angry in order to get any work done. And yet, anger is one emotion that can be useful in gaining awareness of feelings and the gunas’ impact on our lives.

 

If I recognise how I feel when I am angry and why I become angry, I can recognise these feelings in future and thus manage my anger and direct it more usefully and creatively.

 

The definition of sattva as ‘essence’ (A Sanskrit-English Dictionary 1866) I believe is useful in understanding it – an essence can be the truth of something, but it can also mean getting to its core. Sattvic foods are those foods that are natural and fresh, containing the core nutrients that we need to survive.

 

In our lives, sattva can mean with time, work and discipline that we get beyond the comparisons and judgements we make constantly with each other and instead work on sharing and learning with others – coming to understand one another.

 

None of the three gunas may be regarded as good or bad as it is only in acknowledging these aspects that we can move forward. In this way, coming to purity within the three gunas may be viewed in a similar way to Jnana yoga (wisdom).

 

This requires combining the knowledge that we gather in our lives, experience and understanding of this knowledge, but also our own input, our creativity, to make something new and original. It is only through the combination of these elements that wisdom is found, but also purity in the three gunas.

 

Comparisons may also be made between the three gunas and the first three chakras. Muladhara, our root foundation (earth) located at the base of the spine may be considered as our animal instincts, our constant need for safety/security, food, water and lust. When these needs are the focus of our lives, the chakra spins anti-clockwise.

 

Like tamas, the influence of this chakra in our lives must be dissolved as much as possible, so that we can move on and above to the higher chakras.

 

Swadhisthana, self abode (water) in many ways may be seen to contain similar elements to those found in an understanding of sattva. When this chakra is spinning in an anticlockwise direction, our experiences may focus on jealousy, requirements for attention, success or indulgence. However when it turns in a clockwise direction it may be viewed as a sharing chakra, we want others to do well, indeed to do better than ourselves, to want success but not be obsessed with it, to perform better every day instead of comparing ourselves to an unseen goal, to enjoy our indulgences but reduce the quantity. That is this chakra may be viewed as self love, and loving the self completely, totally. Without loving yourself completely, it become close to impossible to love someone or something as it is.

 

The third chakra, manipura, jewel city (fire) is the position from which we transform, but in order to do so we need to fire up to rise above encumbrances. So just as in rajas we transform anger into creativity, here we can use these negative aspects of our lives to take a step forward into the higher chakras of Anahata, Vishuddha and Ajna.

 

More importantly, once we step beyond this chakra we can act creatively without the need for stimulation – that is, we can understand more clearly how to break the negative patterns in our lives in order to move forward and with this knowledge can do so more easily.

 

In this way, just as our knowledge, experience and creativity brings wisdom and our understanding and experience of the three gunas will bring us to purity, our internal knowledge, understanding, experience and acknowledgement of these three chakras can bring us to higher chakras and thus higher planes of experience.

 

(1866) A Sanskrit-English Dictionary, Longmans, Green and Co: London. Found at http://books.google.com.au/books?id=MDEOAAAAIAAJ&vq=sattva&source=gbs_navlinks_s

What is Yoga from the perspective of the 3 Gunas?

According to Vedic perspective, all of material nature (Prakriti) is thought to be made up of three primary qualities or “gunas.” These three gunas make up the essential aspects of all nature—energy, matter and consciousness.
These qualities of nature, or gunas, are:
Sattva – the power of harmony, balance, light and intelligence; higher spiritual potential.
Rajas – the power of energy, action, change and movement.
Tamas – the power of darkness, inertia, form and materiality
It can take a bit of contemplating to understand what these “qualities of nature” are and how they are relevant to our lives and our sadhana (yogic practice). Perhaps the simplest way for us to understand the gunas is that matter is tamas, energy is rajas and light is sattva. These qualities are described as the main components or elements of our physical universe.
The Earth Element is the realm of tamas or darkness, of physical matter.
The Fire Element is the realm rajas, of action and change, symbolized by storms with their process of lightning, thunder and rain. It indicates energy or subtle matter on all levels.
The Air Element is the realm of sattva, of harmony and light. It indicates light as a universal principle that is the origin of all matter and energy. The entire universe is thought to consist of light that moves in the form of energy and condenses into physical matter.
The universe and all of nature is inextricably linked to the gunas and are formed from them. We as people are influenced by these same qualities and processes which are at work within each of us. Both our bodies and our minds are subject to the ebb and flow of the gunas within us. Each of us is thought to have an intrinsic mix of these qualities (called doshas). It is the aim of yoga practice, in all its various forms, to bring into balance our individual mix or the three qualities of sattva, rajas and tamas. Yoga of course favors the cultivation of sattva, the guna of higher consciousness, yet all three gunas must be considered and brought into balance in both the mind and body. However, the ultimate goal of yoga is union with the absolute. This would imply that sattva is not the end goal but it is the ultimate union with the divine that we are seeking.
Hence, a Yogi could be seen as a clear, running stream. When we practice asana, meditation and pranayama (breath techniques) regularly, all the systems and functions of the body line up in an optimal flow of energy. In other words, the gunas are in balance and everything begins to work well and we start to feel the radiant, vibrant health that is our birthright. Our usual aches and pains disappear, we begin to feel naturally more flexible and strong, our sleep and digestion improve and we may sense a serene calmness or peacefulness of heart and mind. The over all “tone” of our being feels more exuberant and at the same time grounded and steady. The aging process becomes one of continual growth and discovery rather than a falling apart. A feeling of being more connected to ourselves and to others may develop, and we may begin to see the world and how we live in it in a kinder, gentler way. Yoga, in all of it’s forms, is about bringing the various aspects of our self into balanced harmony. The result is that we tap into a higher, clearer energy positively affecting all aspects of our health and well-being.