Have you heard about the gunas? No, they are not Disney characters! According to yoga, three basic qualities or energies make up everything. These are the gunas. They are: rajas, tamas, and sattva.
Rajas is the energy of movement, action, and change. Rajasic energy fuels fire and passion. Rajasic energy is associated with daylight hours. We need rajasic energy to move successfully throughout our lives and world. When we have an abundance of rajasic energy, we might appear to others as always on the go, being extremely busy, go go go, do do do! Does this sound like you? Maintaining a high level of rajasic energy frequently leads to burnout. When rajas is out of balance, the body and mind are overstimulated. This makes your mind restless so you may experience many uncontrollable thoughts.
Rajasic foods include: spicy food, fried foods, coffee / caffeinated beverages/ stimulants/ fish, eggs, chocolate, and foods that are very sour, bitter, salty, and dry. Eating quickly is also considered rajasic.
Think of Tamas as the opposite of rajas energy. Tamasic energy is most associated with rest, inactivity, heaviness, and darkness. Just as more rajasic energy is present in daylight hours, tamasic energy exists during nighttime hours. When your tamas is out of balance, your ability to reason becomes clouded. You might experience darker emotions, such as greed or anger. Very tamasic people might appear lazy, unmotivated, or depressed. In general, disease states are tamasic.
Tamasic foods include: meat, alcohol, tobacco, onions, fermented foods – vinegar or strong cheese, stale or over-ripe food, and overly processed or chemically treated foods. Overeating is also tamasic.
Sattva is when energy is in a state of balance and harmony. Positive emotional and mental states of intelligence, love, and joy are associated with sattva. A person feeling a lot of sattvic energy would seem very happy. Additionally, sattvic energy is consistent with stages of healing. The sister science of yoga, Ayurveda, actively cultivates sattvic energy. Sattvic energy exists primarily during the times between light and dark – in other words, dusk and dawn. A person on the yogic path focuses on developing sattva. For this reason, they typically perform yoga asana and meditation at these times.
Sattvic foods include: fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, pure fruit juices, milk, herb teas, butter, legumes, seeds, nuts, sprouted seeds, and honey.
It is essential to realize that everyone has all three gunas within them. However, people tend to have a predominant guna. Can you figure out your primary guna based on the descriptions above? It’s good to be aware of your primary guna. Once you become aware of your predominant guna, you can predict how you might react to certain life circumstances. You will recognize your strengths and weaknesses. You’ll know when you might be sent out of balance and how to get yourself back into balance.
You also might have times when one guna is more active than another. You may have very active and productive (rajasic) time. Or, you might have a period when you are depressed (tamasic). Or a time when you are very balanced and in tune with your spirituality (satvic).
Gunas also appear in our lives and affect us through our food. Think about the average American diet. It typically consists of chemically treated and overly processed, which are tamasic. Modern science has now confirmed that these foods are directly linked to major illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. As previously mentioned, excess tamasic energy leads to illness and disease. We also know that foods in their whole form, such as grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables (sattvic foods), are life-sustaining and bring health and energy.
Do you practice yoga? How do the gunas show up for you there? Is your yoga practice fiery and passionate? Was it slow and lazy? Or was it more balanced?
It is probably becoming clear to you by now that to be healthy, happy, and live a balanced life, it is essential to cultivate sattva in your life. This can be done by:
– Reducing rajas and tamas
– Becoming aware of when you are out of balance- which guna seems most present?
– Increasing activities and environments that produce positive thoughts
– Eating a healthy, sattvic oriented diet
– Practicing yoga: pranayama (breathing practices), asana (postures), meditation