Shanta.  shanti-balancing-stones

It’s the Sanskrit word that describes the feeling of Peace. Shanta (closely related to the word Shanti) is one of the 9 Rasas, which are what scholars or philosophers might call the essential categories of human emotion.  (Love, Joy, Courage, Wonder, Peace, Sadness, Anger, Fear, Disgust.) Interestingly, we are meant to experience them all. You might even say that the ability to feel all these emotions is what makes us human. They are an integral part of our consciousness.

Shanta, while it sounds idyllic, is often elusive and difficult to experience. You might find yourself more frequently faced with Anger (Raudra), Fear (Bhayanaka), or even Disgust (Vibhatsa) and this is where Abhyasa (PRACTICE) comes in.

In yoga classes, we practice the physical movements of asana (the poses.) Class after class, week after week, there’s that Downward Dog again! We practice chanting OM. We practice relaxation in Savasana. We practice breathing again and again. Did you ever stop to think about why? Don’t you think by this time in your life your breath is working pretty well for you?

Here’s the thing…. We practice when things ARE working well for us. You can’t expect to go take a yoga class at a studio when you can’t pay your power bill or you don’t have food on the table. You pretty much must have your basic needs already met and some extra resources to finance your yoga education. Similarly, yoga is easiest when you are in a good place emotionally- when your head is on straight and things are running on an even keel- you might be able to really build up a strong practice. And one of the best reasons to do so is so that when life gets hard, you have this practice to fall back on. Your body, heart, and mind have been entrained in good feelings, and then the hard times seem more manageable. This is why it seems like in yoga classes, we are always talking about Love, Joy, Courage, Wonder and Peace, so that when Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust come along, we can still feel balanced.

At Garden of the Heart Yoga Center, we have mindful yoga teachers who weave a theme into every class, helping you embody the emotions, thoughts, and qualities you prefer over the negative thoughts that can pervade and persist. You infuse these good mental vibrations into your muscles, skin, bones, and organs as you move through the yoga postures in a safe, aligned way. The alignment we teach at Garden of the Heart is designed to bring you into an optimum energy balance.  You get better oxygenation through proper breathing, and good blood and lymph circulation through inversions.  You build muscle strength and coordination in the standing and balancing poses, and increase your brain power as you learn new poses and alignment cues. This gets your body/mind ready to integrate the message of the class. And when you get very familiar with the positive themes and topics of yoga, you are able to access them out in the world where things are challenging. Because that’s when it matters the most!

~Cheryl Chaffee,

Garden of the Heart Yoga Center Director