Ayurveda and Asana
That which is sattvic is light, clear, and stable. Sattva is the state of being which comes from purity of mind, and leads to an awareness of our connectedness to God, a state in which we manifest our most virtuous qualities.
That which is rajasic is active, agitated, or turbulent. Rajas arises when we are distracted from our truest essence, and manifests emotions such as fear, worry, anger, jealously, attachment, and depression.
That which is tamasic is heavy, dull, dark, and inert. Tamasic actions include violent or vindictive behavior, along with self-destructive behaviors such as addiction, depression, and suicide.
All movement or activity is by nature rajasic (agitating) and heating to the body. Yet some movements are more agitating and others less so. Generally speaking, the slower the movement, the less rajasic and the less agitating to the body and mind. The faster the movement, the more rajasic and the more heating it will be.
Any movement practiced with great awareness becomes more sattvic. Movements done with distraction or less attentiveness are more rajasic. Thus, one way to enhance our experience of yoga is to practice slowly and with awareness.
No movement can be purely sattvic. The inherent nature of movement is rajasic, as rajas is the principal of energy, and movement requires energy. Hence our sattvic qualities are most nurtured in meditation and in the stillness of holding a pose, where we can find pure awareness.
The rajasic nature of movement does not necessarily make it bad for us. Rajas serves the useful purpose of stimulating our bodies and minds. We could not function in our world without a part of us being rajasic.
What Sort of Yoga is Right for You?
People of vata constitution or imbalance are most supported by a yoga practice that is calming, quieting, and yet warming. People of pitta nature or imbalance are most supported by a yoga practice that is calming, quieting, and cooling. And people of kapha nature or imbalance are most supported by a yoga practice that is stimulating and warming. Each individual has different needs. To practice in a way that does not support you is to invite greater imbalance.
Asanas for Vata