The concept of leisure is not commonly associated with yoga philosophy or spirituality. Yet leisure is an essential pillar for a joyful and fruitful life. We experience leisure by engaging in activities that help us unwind and relax.
Leisure in Yoga Philosophy: The Three Gunas
Gunas literally means 'qualities'. Everything in nature consists of three characteristics or qualities. Every living being is driven by these three qualities. All our actions are directed by these gunas:
- Sattva means purity
Sattva manifests as purity, joy, contentment, compassion, faith, fairness, forgiveness, courage, non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, non-collection, respect, truth etc.
- Rajas means manipulation
Rajas manifests as manipulation, ego, greed, anger, arrogance, jealousy, desire, malice, hypocrisy, false speech etc.
- Tamas means darkness
Tamas manifests as darkness, violence, ignorance, lack of faith, hatred of rules and discipline, cheating, lying, discrimination, evilness, crookedness, sinful action, senselessness, lack of self-control etc.
By understanding the gunas we can understand what kind of leisure activities are appropriate to engage in. With the goal of yoga in mind, leisure activities should be supportive of our spiritual journey.
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Sattvic Leisure Options
- Develops Self-awareness
- Fruitful and creative
- Connecting to Self and/or others
Examples of Sattvic leisure activities include playing music, writing poetry, painting and reading.
Rajasic Leisure Options
- Sensual gratification
- Affects the ego
Playing competitive sport is a popular form of Rajasic leisure.
Tamasic Leisure Options
- Disturbs the balance of daily life
Leisure options that can become destructive include playing video games, watching movies and gambling.
The same activity can be sattvic, rajasic, or tamasic. The nature of an activity depends on how and why it is done.
The Pendulum of the Mind
The more we indulge and the more we are attached to our indulgences, the wider and more forcefully the pendulum of our mind will swing. We experience incredible heights of happiness and excitement, but we also experience great sadness, frustration and anger.
The law of balance states that everything will always balance itself. In the winter we have shorter days, in the summer the days are longer. Over the course of a year, the hours of night and day are in balance. Likewise, the more excitement and happiness we experience at a certain point in time, the more sadness or depression will come our way too. This can be in this or another lifetime.
To make the swing of the pendulum smaller, we must accept less excitement. At the bottom of the pendulum, between the two extremes, we experience peace.
Brahmacharya is an important concept in yoga philosophy. It is often misinterpreted to mean ‘sexual abstinence’. It actually means ‘non-indulgence’. In leisure, we must keep this principle in mind, as too much indulgence overrides intellect and leads to destruction (tamasic leisure).
How to Experience Leisure in Accordance with Yoga Philosophy
Leisure that supports our holistic health and happiness should be:
- Enjoyed in moderation
The more we are attached to the excitement and pleasure that certain leisure activities give us, the more anger and sadness we feel when we can't experience them anymore. The same leisure can give us happiness or sadness, depending on our degree of attachment to it.
Finding balance in leisure activities that support our spiritual growth will bring us greater peace. We must include enjoyable leisure activities in our lives, but they should be selected wisely and balanced with the other five pillars that support a happy life.
In order to balance your spirituality with the other pillars of your life, you can learn more about all the pillars in this blog series:
Relationships: Relationships in Light of Yoga Philosophy
Spirituality: Spirituality in Light of Yoga Philosophy
Lifestyle: Lifestyle in Light of Yoga Philosophy