A sattvic state of mind is cherished by yogis, but this feeling of peace, harmony, balance, and contentment is often a fragile and fleeting experience. This is the nature of sattva—our minds are constantly in flux as it interacts with our thoughts, our bodies, and the world around us. While we most often experience this deep state of inner peace at the end of a juicy yoga class, there are many other yogic techniques that cultivate equanimity in our lives. To make equanimity a more frequent visitor in your mind, incorporate these practices into your daily life and your current yoga practice.
1. Be thankful and grateful
Every moment offers the potential for feeling and expressing kritajna—gratitude and thankfulness. Finding gratitude in our everyday lives sharpens the mind, makes us mindful of the present moment, and is one of the quickest and easiest practices to increase happiness and joy. One simple way to incorporate a practice of gratitude in your life is to begin or end your yoga practice by focusing on the simple gifts and blessings in your life. Another great kritajna practice is to end your day by remembering three positive things that you recently experienced.
2. Meditate on a mantra
Japa, the repetition of a mantra, is one of the most powerful forms of meditation that I’ve experienced. Mantras are Sanskrit words, sounds or phrases, which are repeated in meditation as an object of concentration. Two of the most calming and balancing mantras are the “So Hum” and “Ham Sa” mantras. Both of these Sanskrit mantras do not have direct translations but convey the energy of: “I am everything there is, and feel at one with the entire cosmos. I am without form, without quality, without past, present or future. I am the pure light of action-less awareness.” When synchronized with the breath, inhaling with “So/Ham” and exhaling with “Hum/Sa,” these mantras will create even more equanimity. If you haven’t practiced japa before, you can find full instructions on YogaBasics’ meditation section. You can practice this quick and easy technique just about anywhere and anytime.
3. Be generous and giving
Offering your help to others in need is a powerful virtue that removes guilt, softens one’s heart, and promotes inner peace. For the most potent effect, dana should be “given without expectation of return, at the proper time and place, and to a worthy person.” A great way to reap the good karma and other benefits of charitable giving is to offer your time and money to several yoga based non-profit organizations.
4. Disengage from your desires
Vairagya is a deeper and more subtle practice of “not giving a damn” that aims to create equanimity by softening and removing our emotional reactions and mental patterns. Practicing detachment from worldly desires stills the heart and calms the mind. Vairagya applies both to our likes and dislikes, with the ideal goal of seeing both sweet and bitter fruits of life as the same. The practice of vairagya takes enormous patience, inner strength, and effort–so be prepared for this skill to develop slowly and gradually.
5. Breathe in peace
While most yoga breathing techniques calm the mind, Nadi Shodhana pranayama is an especially powerful practice to create inner focus and soothing peace. While this pranayama’s main intent is to purify the subtle energy channels (nadis) of the body (which in turn purifies the mind), alternate nostril breathing also lowers the heart rate, reduces stress, and decreases anxiety. Whenever you feel your equanimity slipping away you can take a few moments to practice this breathing technique. If you haven’t practiced this before, you can find full instructions on YogaBasics’ pranayama section.
6. Study, inquire, and contemplate
Svadhyaya is the ability to uncover our divine nature through the contemplation of our life’s lessons and through the meditation on the truths revealed by seers and sages. Life presents an endless opportunity to learn about ourselves; our flaws and weaknesses give us the opportunity to grow and our mistakes allow us to learn. Examining our actions becomes a mirror to see our conscious and unconscious motives, thoughts, and desires more clearly. The yogic practice of svadhyaya also involves the study of sacred and spiritual texts as a guide to our interior world where our true self resides. Through study, inquiry, and contemplation our equanimity is cultivated by changing our perspective, seeing beyond our current state, and tapping into the wisdom of the sages.
7. Choose healthy relationships
Other people’s behaviors, emotions, and thoughts will affect your state of mind so consciously choose who you spend your time with. Seek out virtuous people who embody kindness, goodness, honesty, compassion, and respect. In all of your relationships and interactions with others you can purify the mind by “cultivating feelings of friendliness towards those who are happy, compassion for those who are suffering, goodwill towards those who are virtuous, and indifference or neutrality towards those we perceive as wicked or evil.”
As you explore these yoga practices you may find some techniques work faster while others are more efficient at attaining sattva. I recommend you take notes and allow time for reflection to determine the efficacy and success at attaining equanimity.