Yoga: Rajas, Change, and the Month of March

Rajas is one of the three qualities (gunas) that emerge from the primary elements of nature--matter, energy, and consciousness.  The other two qualities are Tamas and Sattva.  In the world view of yogic philosophy, these three basic components are the fabric of creation and impact the choices and behavior of living things.

  • Rajas represents action, change, movement, birth.
  • Tamas represents dullness, inertia, non-moving, and inactivity.
  • Sattva is the quality that represents harmony, balance.

All three are present at all times in living beings, they ebb and flow with each other As humans, we have the conscious ability to make choices that impact the level of gunas in our bodies and minds.While the yogi's goal is to cultivate sattva, the ultimate goal is  to be unattached to both the good and the bad, the positive and negative qualities of all life.

I get really annoyed looking up yoga poses and only finding white people.
I get really annoyed looking up yoga poses and only finding white people.

That being said, it's been a "rajas" kind of month.

At Tranquil Space, where I spend a lot of my yoga time, "rajas" is the focus for the month of March.

We've been focusing on "revolved side angle" as a body shape/pose that gets at rajas---it's a deep, deep twist that creates rings out the old, dull energy of a long winter and gets our juices going for spring.

But life in general has had strong rajasic qualities for me.

  • Lent at Pilgrims, and our focus on the body,  has involves new experiences like inviting people into simple yoga poses, using a thurible, and generally more "out of our comfort zone" experiences. The first Sunday in Lent, right before worship, I was feeling rajasic energy and the sensations that come up for me with change is right there about to happen, minutes away.
  • My  nephew continues on with his journey with Leukemia ALL. Good news came for him in March.
  • I co-lead a workshop at PCUSA's "Compassion, Peace, and Justice" day at New York Avenue with Ruth Farrell who heads PCUSA's Hunger Program. The original co-leader couldn't make the conference and I was asked if I could step in. Sure! Soon enough I found myself knee deep in trauma theory to unpack the workshop on "Land, Trauma, and the Bible." I had to stand up, with confidence, and explain the structural impact of trauma, colonization, and the Psalms. Thank you, Holy Spirit.

After a few weeks of feeling like I was in the final spin cycle of a washing machine, I got on my mat for one of my favorite classes of the week and found myself finally releasing this rajas energy.

After we were done with the twisting and ringing out that comes with revolved side angle, I found myself almost collapsing on my mat. Releasing. Thoughts came to a standstill.  Tears started to fall down my cheeks. I wanted to be in child's pose the rest of class-that's one pose I go to when I want to touch the place inside of me where I feel safe.

Eventually I was in corpse pose, dying to my old self and rising to my new. More tears came as my body released the spinning motion of change.

I was able to change the configuration of the rajas element inside of me. I found rest and ease. New beginnings. And gratitude for the power of my body to re-shape its interior self.

Want to ring it out and try revolved side angle?