Cultivating Sattva during movement

I've lived in my home for nine years. Although I love my backyard, I hardly spend any time there. Today I decided to write this article while I sat in my backyard. In the middle of writing, I looked up at the palm trees in front of me. For the first time in nine years, I gave myself the option to really look at them. I observed the palm fronds, their shape and how some drape over my fence. As the sun was setting, there was an orange glow on the trunk and I saw some amazing shadows displayed on the back fence as the sunlight trickled though the leaves. I allowed my mind to move into a sattvic state and was able to appreciate the subtleties.

The word "sattva" means being-ness. In Ayurveda sattva embodies clarity, stillness, purity. Often, when the mind becomes sattvic through meditation, we can receive higher guidance. The other two qualities of the mind are rajas (passion and activity) and tamas (heavy, dull, sleepy).

Our movement practice can also create these qualities in our minds. Asanas are highly beneficial. Unfortunately, the way it is often practiced creates a rajasic state of mind. This is sometimes necessary to get us going in the morning, but we often want to live there all day.

I found that with slow movements, sometimes small movements, done with an attitude of exploration, we can bring about that sattvic state in our bodies and minds. In the process of exploring, we listen to how we move. We start to kinesthetically sense, bringing attention to the quality of our movements. In that process, we are able to tap into a higher knowledge of effortless movement that is innate within us. One that does not have our conscious mind imposing it's will. When we find that state, there is clarity that comes and our movements become graceful, effortless, and elegant. We then discover different movement options rather than our habitual way. The breath becomes more spacious and our mind embraces sattva.

Written by Roland Mathews

Feldenkrais Practitioner and Yoga Instructor

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