By Brittany Rosales, RYT-200

Sattva.

These 6 letters have changed my entire view of my life, my daily routine, and my sport.

They have caused me to re-think nearly every decision I’ve made in the past. They have helped

me shape and form new habits.

But what is Sattva? What is so earth-shattering about this word that before last year, I’d

never before heard? While you may not have uttered “Sattva” in your life, I can guarantee you

have contemplated the concepts that it calls to mind. You see, Sattva is a philosophic construct,

of yogic roots, that in its most basic form translates to one exceptional word: Balance. While

Sattva brings with it other related concepts, for the sake of simplicity, it mostly always boils

down to the idea of balance.

I came from the world of walk-it-off, wrap-it-up, and push-past-the-pain. Growing up a

dancer, I was pushed well beyond the physical limitations that my body had set. In some ways,

that’s not a bad thing. Pushing past limitations is how we grow, right? Except, what teachers

and coaches don’t often consider is the fact that pressing an athlete too far past the limits his

body currently holds can cause a life-time of pain and injury. This is especially true for young

athletes whose bodies have yet to finish forming and growing.

Now, this is not to say that we aren’t to persevere, to test the boundaries, or gently lift

past the ceiling of our current limitations. Because they are just that: current. If your body is

incapable of doing something – a stretch, a routine, a dive, a pose – I fully believe it is a

temporary limitation. You can’t do it – yet. The “yet” is key. With time, practice, and dedication,

you can do anything. It’s important that you actually believe that, because it’s 100% true. Read

it again if you need to. The athletes who are better than you aren’t magical other-worldly

entities, they are humans who have dedicated their hours, sweat, and perseverance to their

craft. While that’s highly admirable, it’s also fully attainable. You are in complete control of

your own progress.

So where does Sattva fit in with training? I was almost 2 years into my yoga journey

before I really began to understand the concept of balance, and trust me, I am still striving for it

daily. When I realized that I needed to listen to my body and allow it to tell me what it needed,

my practice changed for the better. No longer was I (as) frustrated when I couldn’t master a

pose immediately. No more was I jealous that the person next to me was “so much better” at

insert-shape-here than me.

I have heard before that the moment you want to leave a yoga pose, that is where the

yoga truly begins. Basically, it’s when I want to give up, but don’t, that I start to make progress.

I still need to listen to my body’s limitations, but there’s a huge difference between pain and

discomfort. Learning the difference between the two will make or break your sport. Pushing

past pain causes injury; pushing past discomfort causes growth. I believe it is fully possible to

safely test your limitations if you learn to tap into what your body needs. I dream of a world

where all coaches help their athletes truly understand this concept – can you imagine the

lifelong injuries young athletes could avoid? I picture fewer conclusions, ligament tears,

dislocated joints…the list goes on.

I realize that the idea of Sattva could also have a downside, because I must be careful to

avoid it myself. Sometimes, I find myself using Sattva as an excuse. Today I don’t want to work

as hard because I need balance. It’s that eat-one-apple, eat-one-cupcake mentality. This is a

dangerous trap – too much of a good thing can indeed be too much. Check yourself; ask, “Am I

being honest with myself in my desire to rest my body today? Or am I being lazy and unwilling

to put in the work necessary to grow?” If you can honestly answer that your body is asking for

rest, then freely and generously allow yourself recovery time – without guilt. If you cannot

honestly say that you need a day off, then get your booty to your mat, the pool, the field, the

studio, wherever it is that you do your thing.

Choose balance; seek Sattva. Work hard and rest well. Learn the difference between

pain as a warning sign and discomfort as a sign of growth. Learn to say no. Choose when to say

yes. Practice brutal honestly with yourself. Give yourself grace when you slip up. In the words of

Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois, “Practice, and all is coming.”

Sattva.