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Some people come to yoga believing it has the power to transform them; others are skeptics hoping to have their minds changed.
Some of these achieve metamorphosis; others come away unchanged.
Why is that?
The answer to that question is elusive, but intuitive: if we perceive yoga as a one-dimensional discipline, we rob it of the very kaleidoscopic nature it requires to effect holistic, radical change.
Consider asana practice: if we approach it as a purely physical discipline, it can only affect our physical self. But asana practice has the potential to engage the practitioner on much deeper levels. Yes, it requires our body and mind to work in concert, but there’s even more to it than that.
Fish pose, Child’s pose, Monkey pose—most yoga practitioners don’t know the myths behind these postures. But these stories unlock the wisdom in every shape. Understanding their cosmic significance allows us to experience a deeper connection to our true selves and to the world around us. Here, I’ll explain the myth and meaning behind Trikonasana, or Triangle pose.
Named for its three (tri) corners (konas), the triangle is characterized by stability; it forms a foundation from which we can stretch, twist, bend, and explore in countless ways.
The triune nature of all things:
Balanced between three equidistant points, the triangle is a metaphor for the three cornerstones of existence—birth, death, and life—and the gods who oversee them.
Brahma presides over our beginnings, bringing things into being with his creative energy (rajas); Vishnu sustains through serenity and positivity (sattva); and Shiva closes the loop with inertia and chaos (tamas).
A triangle’s equilibrium depends on its three vertices; so the equilibrium of all living beings rests on the balance of these three gunas, or intrinsic qualities: rajas, sattva, and tamas.
All of us experience periods of imbalance, in which we struggle to be our best, happiest, most effective selves. Understanding the cause of that instability (unbalanced gunas) is the first step to overcoming it. The next step is rebalancing the gunas through yoga.
What does having imbalanced gunas look like?
When we identify most strongly with our corporeal selves, we are under the influence of tama guna (associated with habits like eating processed foods or bingeing on TV).
When we identify most with our intellectual selves, we are in raja guna (associated with competition, impatience, caffeine, and hyperactivity).
Interestingly, sattva guna (clarity) is the tempering influence that tamas and rajas require to stay balanced. In sattva guna, we identify most closely with our consciousness. Sattva is associated with spending time in nature, eating fresh fruits and veggies, and the pursuit of knowledge.
Sādhanā: the key to recovering equilibrium.
Even if your life requires a hefty dose of tamasic or rajasic influences (you might work in a very competitive field, for example), you can exist in a state of calm and balance. The secret is sādhanā: the perspective which views and interprets all things as tools for cultivating well-being.
If you’re not sure where to start, try to identify people, foods, and activities which are sattvic—they are the ones that make you feel peaceful, nourished, harmonious, pure, and balanced. And you already know one of them: yoga.
Spend some time exploring Trikonasana this week.
While you’re in the pose, meditate on the people, passions, and pursuits that make you feel more connected to yourself and to a higher state of consciousness. Seek peace, knowledge of self, and harmony with others through yoga and these things will come to you.
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