Cultivate Balance and Harmony: Sattva
What is sattva?
In the yoga tradition, there is a beautiful word, sattva, which stands for the qualities of goodness, balance, harmony and serenity. These are the qualities that yogis aim to cultivate through their practices, and indeed the very qualities that most of us can attest to wanting more of in our lives
Sattva is one of the three gunas or elemental qualities that are described in the yogic traditional texts. The tradition describes how these three elemental qualities make up the essential aspects of nature: energy, matter and consciousness. They are:
- Sattva – the power of Light, harmony, balance, that which is uplifting, buoyant, and serene.
- Rajas – the power of Energy, action, change and movement, also passion, desire, agitation, and tension
- Tamas – the power of Darkness, inertia, form, materiality, also lethargy, heaviness, dullness
We need the energy of rajas to get up in the morning, get our to-do list done and make change happen in the world. But, when rajas runs rampant, we get over-busy, agitated, tense and irritated.
We need tamas to slow us down after a long day, to wind down and to rest. But, when tamas rules our bodies, we get sluggish, complacent and even obstinate.
The goal is to bring all three gunas into balance and yet to favor, maximize, and cultivate sattva.
How can we cultivate sattva?
I live a complex life and I bet you do too. I know that on any given day the energies of rajas and tamas will be strong influences on my body mind. It's so common or all of us to get swept away with busy-ness, overwhelm, stress, and frustration. It's also common to become dispirited and complacent with when we experience boredom and tedium.
The best way I know of to cultivate sattva is to build in daily sattvic habits to buffer the rajas and tamas.
Cultivate sattva with these daily habits:
- Meditation. There is nothing more effective in my own experience for restoring balance than a daily meditation practice. A day that begins and ends with a brief meditation practice melts stress, engenders confidence and ensures harmony and ease.
- Mindful eating. Make it a habit to plan nourishing and healthy meals and to sit down and actually savor them. Whenever possible, enjoy the company of others when you eat. Don't eat your meals in the car and at your computer.
- Daily movement. Our bodies are designed to move, not to sit at computers each day. Movement buffers stress and enlivens the body-mind. Begin your day with 10-20 minutes of movement in the morning and take movement breaks throughout the day.
- Keep good company. Pay attention to who you spend time with. Spending time with people who are stressed out or depressed will have a negative impact on your mind and body health.
- Early to bed. Treat your body as the temple it is meant to be and give yourself the gift of a full 7 to 9 hours of sleep. Power down your devices earlier in the evening and get your lights out by 10 PM to feel balanced and rejuvenated the next morning.