Traditions from ancient Taoism and Buddhism to modern science teach us that everything in the universe is energy. From a saddle to a table, energy is everywhere, in everything and in every part of our lives.
While it may be hard to wrap your mind around inanimate objects’ having energy until they move, try thinking about something in your house that has been in your family for years. Does it carry the energy of people who have touched it/used it?
We all have an unique power or vibration, and one way to understand this energy is through the three gunas, a component of Sankha philosophy. A guna is quality or attribute, a thread or a cord that is used to bind us. The three gunas are a way of looking at yourself, delving into the subtle body. All three gunas are present in all living beings and objects but in varying degrees.
The three gunas are: Sattva Guna: Clear, even, light, fresh, flowing, deep knowledge, conscious action; Tamas Guna: inertia, stuck in the muck, dark, stale, couch potato, inaction, narrow minded, apathy, not caring; and Rajas: turbulent, anxious, stimulating, moving rapidly, shallow knowledge, impulsiveness, unconscious reaction, aggressive. Of course , we should all strive for more sattva.
We have the ability to alter these gunas in our mind, body, and spirit through food, movement, breathwork and meditation. It is all about finding balance in life mentally, physically and emotionally. Understanding the gunas may help you within evaluating yourself. For instance, most of us over the years have experienced what we may call depression but have not been clinically diagnosed with one of the many types of depression. Of course , there are the positive traditional go-to remedies such as talk therapy plus drugs for treating depression, but did you know there are other proven complementary approaches, such as yoga, to help deal with depression and anxiety?
Most exercise can boost your mood by increasing the production of endorphins (your very own internal pain reliever and happiness booster), but yoga has many additional benefits such as aiding with better sleep, essential for regenerating the body.
While the number of studies on yoga and depression are complicated and limited, one 2019 study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Practice found that yoga can be a helpful complementary treatment for clinical depression. There are many variables to consider when conducting yoga exercise research, from the type of yoga exercises, the correct yoga dose, plus proper diagnosis of depression — the list is endless.
Patricia Walden, a senior Iyengar teacher who suffered from depressive disorders divides a person’s depressive disorder by a dominance of tamas or rajas gunas. A person with a dominance of tamas is associated with inertia so they may feel lethargic, have a hard time getting out of bed, and feel hopeless. A person marked with a predominance of rajas, the guna associated with activity and restlessness, may often feel angry, have a stiff body, and a racing mind.
Individuals with major depression respond well to practicing sun salutations linked to the breath. Personally, I enjoy sun salutations, and they can be modified to fit any person.
Linking movement with breath is key to keep the mind focused. An individual with a predominant rajas guna will have difficulty closing their eyes with restorative poses and savasana as well as moving their fingers. Chest openers are essential yoga postures for people with depression to counteract the collapsed chest and shallow breathing common in people suffering from depression.
We all go through certain moods and act and react certain ways. Looking at ourselves with the three gunas is an interesting approach. Who doesn’t want to have a predominate sattva guna and a calm, clear mind? Now, those are good vibrations.
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Ashton Graham is an educator, book publisher, photographer, cowgirl and yoga teacher. She is currently studying to become a certified yoga therapist and lives on a ranch in West Texas.