Cast your mind back to the start of May and that weekend of glorious weather we had after months and months of cool temperatures and soggy boots. I daresay that at some point – perhaps as you walked into town along the river, or wrapped your tongue around a 99 for the first time since last August – you felt yourself being overcome with pure sensation, pure joy. If you did, you were experiencing the force of ‘rasa’.
What is rasa?
One of the best descriptions of rasa that I’ve come across is attributed to an Ayurveda teacher called Robert Svoboda, in an article on the subject, written by Shiva Rea. Svoboda says, “Existence without juice is dry and tasteless. Rasa is life’s fluid reality, life’s juice, in every sense of the word.” In other words, rasa is the stuff that makes us feel alive! It is the very essence of being – and it comes in many forms.
In historical terms, rasa is, in fact, a concept which comes from Indian theatre and it refers to an actor’s successful transmission of a character’s emotions to an audience. It’s not just a matter of conveying emotions, but of instilling those very same feelings in the spectator. The actor seeks to transmit rasa and literally bring the play to life!
Rasa in daily life
Daniel and I took Tulsi to the Madhyamaka Kadampa Meditation Centre in Pocklington during that recent warm spell of weather. The sun danced on the trees’ new leaves, sparkled on the dewy grass and warmed our flesh. We were utterly enraptured by our surroundings, the moment and each other – the rasa was flowing! And as Daniel launched Tulsi into the petals of the cherry blossom, leaving her suspended mid-air between catches, she too drank up this intoxicating ‘juice’ of life.
Rasa is something everyone can experience and enjoy – and they do, even if they don’t realise! How many of your non-yoga friends have you heard talk with such fervour about certain ‘moments’ they’ve had? How many photos of sunsets captioned only with a heart emoticon have you seen posted on Facebook? In all these cases, rasa is at play. You need only be open to the beauty of life.
Yoga and rasa
As yoga practitioners, we open ourselves up to rasa. By cultivating our internal and external awareness and by finding perfection in each moment, we invite rasa into our lives. This does not mean we can rest on our yoga laurels, however…
It’s all-too-easy to simply ‘go through the motions’, to sleepwalk through a series of postures. When this happens, we must bring our awareness back to the present moment. Only there can we feel a posture inside and out, feel what it awakens inside of us, gauge the fluctuations in our energy levels, consciously contract and relax our muscles… Only there, in that moment, can we feel the inspiring, uplifting force of rasa flowing through our veins and hearts. Try it and see.
Rasa for all
It’s rare for a yoga teacher to tell you to be greedy, but with rasa you can be! There’s enough juice to go round. Enough for the Indian theatre-goers. Enough for the people posting pictures of sunsets, who don’t know what they experienced, only that it made their heart swell. And enough for those on the path of yoga. For as the philosopher, Ramachandra Gandhi, points out:
“When you taste the rasa of life, you drink from a well that is never dry.”