Class Notes, Week 3: The gunas

The Moksha yoga teacher training program requires me to journal once each week about my experience with the poses and assignments + my practice and progress. This is that weekly assignment.

I have been feeling pretty unorganized, something that doesn’t sit well with those of us carrying a Type A chip.  The teacher training program has unleashed an avalanche of new knowledge, and there is no all-in-one manual that preserves everything as a reference — not yet anyway.  Information is scattered among handouts distributed in class, reference guides posted to the Moksha intranet and my handwritten notes.

I suspect that how we harness all of this information is part of the unspoken challenge.  While I enjoy challenges, I also like being rescued, damsel-in-distress style.  Enter my knight in shining armor: Kinko’s.

To preserve my organizational sanity, I took the advice of Carolyn Dale, our program counselor, and printed out every single reference/study guide sheet posted on the Moksha Intranet.  I then asked Kinko’s to bind it all into four books: Asanas; Meditation & Pranayama; Elements; Ayurveda; and Sutras of Patanjali.  It took several hours, lots of patience and a few ink cartridges.  But oh, what a difference this has made to my psyche!  Today, I was able to flip to specific asana guides as they were taught in class, which allowed me to focus on the lesson and instruction versus feverishly scribbling notes.  (Well, I still took notes.  I was just more laid-back about it.)

Although I may have killed a small tree with my aggressive printing, these binders will enable me to better serve humanity someday.  This helps me get over any “green” guilt.

Here’s a peek at some of my materials for the teacher training program. (Yes, coloring is among my homework assignments.) My Kinko’s binders are at the bottom.

As I printed out these hundreds and hundreds of pages, I got a sneak peek into all of the knowledge that will be imparted (and hopefully retained) by the end of this program.  One of the lessons that intrigued me during the marathon printing session was taught during today’s class: the gunas.

The gunas are primal qualities that reside in all things, existing in varying proportions.  They aren’t measurable or able to be seen under a microscope — so perhaps hardened scientists would roll their eyes at this.  But stop and think about the nature of people, specifically, and this absolutely makes sense.

The three gunas are:

  • Rajas: the energy of activity and movement
    Stimulates action / vinyasa
    When in excess, it creates anxiety
  • Tamas: the energy of stability and mass
    Promotes grounding / asana
    When in excess, it creates lethargy
  • Sattva: the energy of peace, balance and clarity
    Exudes calm
    No such thing as “excess” satva

Clearly, the goal is to enhance sattva.  After all, who doesn’t want peace, balance and clarity?  (I would like to meet the person who doesn’t and ask them … “Why?”)

The reality with humans is we tend to skew either more rajas or more tamas – either innate in our personality, or when thrust into certain situations.  There are pros and cons to both qualities, depending on how they are aligned in combination with each other.

I immediately can think of five people who are “heavy” with rajas.  If I’m being honest, I should put myself into this group, too.  The act of putting together several binders for this class is an exhibit of my rajas persuasion.  So is any self-created anxiety, a by-product of excessive rajas.

Daren asked us to observe the gunas in people, places and things over this next week.  And were encouraged to do so without judgment, of course.  I’m going to be mindful of this, and notice how I react (or don’t react) to whatever arises with people around me.

To be continued …

Update:  I spent the past several days on a work trip in San Francisco.  It was an exhausting trip — but one where I had a heightened awareness to the energy types sprinkled about me, as well as the type of energy that I was sprinkling into the world.

The most interesting observations were at the O’Hare and San Francisco airports.  Both are full of hustle and bustle (rajas), with high-strung people dashing to catch a flight or flaring up at security when their bags are flagged for additional inspection.  I tried not to let all of this activity create unnecessary anxiety within me.

My favorite observation: Amidst this swirl of airport motion, there was a clearly labeled oasis of calm … a yoga room!  (OK, there’s judgment in ranking it a favorite.  So be it.)

Yoga (sattva) amidst the chaos of the San Francisco airport (rajas).

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