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Are there times during the day or the week when you come under the grip of a stubborn feeling? Maybe you feel listless when you ought to feel energetic. Or agitated when you ought to be calm.

Self-mastery involves having access to a better energy state instead of being hijacked by one. A mindful practice of yoga can help us access these states over time.

Yoga and Ayurveda speak of three “gunas” or qualities. Tamas, rajas, and sattva. The first is associated with inertia, but it can also be stabilizing. The second is associated with excited activity, but it can also be agitating. The third is associated with lightness, offering distance from feelings and situations to make wise choices. By practicing yoga postures with breath awareness over time, we can train the body to access different energy states. While all asanas are meant to invoke Sattva (a calm yet alert state of mind), we employ both Rajas and Tamas to move and settle.

In other words, when the effect of physical postures and breath practices are integrated over time, they become gateways to corresponding mental postures, off the mat. They can train us to instinctively get into a grounded, dormant state when we need to weather situations (tamas), a constructive state when we need to take action (rajas), ultimately getting to a balanced state of careful observation and making informed choices (sattva).

The famous Serenity Prayer comes to mind: Grant me the courage to change what I can change, the serenity to accept what I cannot change, and wisdom to always tell the difference. Practicing the postures and continuous breath awareness to invoke Sattva at all times, through the balance of tamas when we need serenity and rajas when we need courage, is of course, not a formula. It takes loving practice to get there!

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