Goddess Diary #6: the gunas and feminine intuition

Amber Scott is a yoga teacher and ancient Thai massage therapist, teaching in the UK and running regular retreats at her family home Trasierra, in the hills of Andalucia. Having studied a wide range of disciplines from Iyengar style yoga, Hatha yoga, Yoga Nidra, ancient Thai healing, Buddhism and Sanskrit, she offers a truly grounded and integrated practice that is precise, clear and safe.

After an enlightening class on the gunas at her most recent retreat in Spain, I invited her to share her knowledge about these Ayurvedic energies, or frequencies, and how they can be a key to accessing our intuitive feminine flow.

The feminine is in peril. After millennia fulfilling our precious role, in many minds and cultures, motherhood is not considered a ‘proper job’, women are praised more for their looks than for their depth, our interests are viewed as ‘superficial’, and in many ways even feminists have become a bit of a target for mockery and critique. Nourishing, caring and that most feminine of virtues: patience, are all qualities that are celebrated in a hushed – if almost secret – manner.

We feel the feminine in peril, and no wonder it is. Of course it is! When we are told of the riches that await us if only we keep on keeping on, who would want to take the time to pause and take a look? The feminine is in peril because the feminine is gentle and soft, and softness is associated with weakness in the society we live in, with not being able to keep up… However, it is exactly this very softness which makes us so strong: we are like clay, that when it is soft and malleable and flowing, can take any shape. It is only when it turns hard that it shatters. We have an innate capacity to accommodate different points of view without being pushovers, our physical bodies expand and contract effortlessly to grow and give birth to our offspring; there is so much we can deal with and navigate in this life without shattering – and yet the resonance of the threat to our femininity is stored deep.

Anxiety and depression are tearing through the strata of our society, and though we look outside of ourselves for the cure, perhaps we could soften our gaze and turn it within. We can work away at strengthening and making our bodies more supple but when we look at the energy that flows within us, we can often become confused, disoriented and feel a need to centre.

According to the ancient ways, the energy of the universe vibrates at different frequencies. In yoga we call these qualities the gunas. I have learnt a lot by looking at the world according to this model. The main gunas are three: rajas, tamas and sattva and as with all Sanskrit words the translations are approximate but I shall try my best to give it my own personal take.

Tamas is the energy of dullness, of lethargy. It is a downward pull, it is our too-solid body. Tamas keeps us on the sofa, or in bed, or in front of the TV, even when the cells of our body are screaming out for light and movement, it stays in that dark room. In pure tamas, our body takes over and can surrender to sleep, but a restless sleep, a sleep where the inactivity of the physical self is not nourishing as it should be, but even more depleting.

And rajas is fire. Rajas keeps us running from the house to the car, our hands gripping the steering wheel as we step on the accelerator hard. Rajas takes us jogging after an espresso, it hustles, it pushes, it sometimes shoves hard. Rajas is action, ashtanga, debate, so positive, so so positive, all of the time.

In fact rajas is exhausting, just as much as tamas.

Sattva is that sweet space at the bottom of the exhale, that pure potential from where the breath of life arises, sattva is dawn, when the sky is so clear but the sun has yet to show its face; sattva is dusk when that golden honey light remains although the sun has already sunk. Sattva is yoga, meditation, bliss.

So… armed with this knowledge – and I am sure you can recognise all of these qualities in yourself at some point of the day or another – which way do we go? In fact, we “go” nowhere, but we stop and we listen without expecting an answer, so that when sweet sattva manifests, it is pure delight. And we can truly be there – as the fluid, malleable, intuitive females that we are.

We rest in the knowledge that all life is effortless, there is nothing we need to do and the better we are able to tune into the subtleties of our being, the more harmony we are in with the flow of this river of life. How could it be otherwise? We gain nothing by forcing, by pushing or by straining, in fact we lose our most precious store of energy.

Does this mean that we lie around all day doing nothing? Far from it, in fact we heed the call of nature at every turn. When that sweet sattva wakes us in the morning, our mind doesn’t interfere and tell us we’re better off lying in bed, instead with wonder we follow that divine energy and place our bare feet on the floor. We allow sattva to carry us through the day, so effortlessly. Yes, we have tasks to do, food to cook, children to feed, houses to clean, but in this sattvic flow….. something else, effortless and unthinking – intuitive, even – propels us. 

I would like to invite you to invite sattva into your life:

The moment you awake, when the eyelids part of their own accord, you have met with bliss. With utmost curiosity, follow its trail, before the whirring of the busy mind kick in. Pad to the bathroom to splash cool water on your face, or light your incense and inhale onto the blank palette of your senses. Make yourself a cup of tea and gently stretch your back. Do what you love, you have just earnt yourself time. You have woken up. 

At first it may take a bit of effort as the memory of tamas drags you back into slumber – but after a week you will never look back.

Next you can begin to set your own mental alarm clock; this is really fun to do and I promise it never fails!

But one step at a time… <3

Amber is holding her next Hill Yoga retreats in Spain from March 16-19th and 23rd-26th. Head to her website for more information and to book.

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