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Oneness Archives - Peacock Tree Yoga

The animating force of rasa!

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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

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Tulsi in the flow of rasa!

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.”

Connecting with nature

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A natural communion

One of my favourite things to do is to go walking with friends and a few days off teaching over Easter afforded me the opportunity to do just that. Friends are so important, each providing in their individual ways, a combination of support, company, advice and fun – as well as a reflection of certain aspects of our own personality. And we, of course, reciprocate with our own offerings.

Friends do the same job as nature: they confirm who we are – which is a very reassuring and enjoyable thing!

Tulsi enjoying communion with her friend, Harvey (before wihpping off her clothes and enjoying her connection with nature!

Tulsi enjoying communion with her friend, Harvey (before whipping off her clothes and enjoying her connection with nature!)

But whilst we tend to learn about our ego selves through our relationships with others, nature gets right down to the core of the matter: it shows us our true self – it shows us that we are One. And as my companion and I strode along the beach in Scarborough, our young children within sight, revelling in their surroundings, this fact was wonderfully apparent.

We are all made of stars* (and water, fire and space)

That day, I observed how each wave leaves a mark on the shore, and how I, too, find myself being changed by nature – by the longer days and the freshness of Spring. I felt the space opening up in my heart and mind, mirroring the vast sky above my head. The sandy earth beneath my feet gave me the feeling of being grounded and confident – great solace in a world of permanent change.

Nature gently put its hands on my shoulders, looked me in the eye and confirmed what many of us know, but often forget to notice: everything is connected. You, me and the elements – everything in and on this planet. My daughter, Tulsi, is undoubtedly tuned into this fact; as is so often the case, she was the only naked child on the beach – for that girl, a beach signals ‘bare bottom’…whatever the temperature!

Connecting with nature through yoga

I thank yoga for the ability to see how everything is connected. Our practice gives us time to connect to our deepest selves – that essential aspect of ourselves that’s so often buried under our thoughts, learnt behaviours, frantic day-to-day lives and dramas. Yoga shines a light on the light within, so that when we give ourselves time amongst nature, we’re able to see how we’re not all that different to the elements; indeed, we ARE the elements!

“Yoga shines a light on the light within”

Connecting with nature is a wonderfully enlightening experience and I strongly recommend taking the time to do it. Whether it’s an afternoon in the garden or allotment, a trip to the park, a roam around the Bar Walls, or a grand escapade in God’s own county, along the coast or across the dales and moors – plan it, write it on the calendar, make it happen!

It’s elementary, dear yogis…

Take the time, too, to experience this sense of oneness with the elements during your yoga asana practice. Pay attention to:

  • the earthy weight of your skeleton
  • the wind of your breath moving in, out, and through you
  • the warm fire of your digestive organs
  • the moisture in your mouth and eyes
  • and finally, when you become quiet enough, the vastness of space within and around you

*We really are, read this!