The Three Gunas, defined as the three fundamental qualities or attitudes of the manifest energy. In yoga and Ayurveda, a guna is a tattva or element of reality that can affect our psychological, emotional and energetic states.
- Sattvic: Life, purity, strength, health joy, cheerfulness
- Rajasic: Over-stimulated, passion, boisterous, restlessness
- Tamasic: Dull, inertia, lazy
So what does this mean for us? This is my understanding – to make progress along the yogic path, we must practice self-observation and discernment to witness and not react to the activities of the gunas. We must increase our inner-strength and willpower to mindfully shift our thoughts and actions away from tamas and rajas towards sattvic balance and purpose. With yoga, we often try to reach the state of balance and equilibrium and the three Gunas allow us to understand ourselves and our state a little better to achieve that equilibrium. In the case that perhaps one is feeling sluggish and tired during the day, a rajastic asana practice could help bring one out of the tamasic state. Yoga practices could include power yoga, flow yoga or even kapalabhati pranayama to stimulate the rajas and ignite the passion in us.
To reduce tamas, avoid tamasic foods such as meats, chemically treated, processed or refined, oversleeping, overeating, inactivity, passivity and fearful situations. To reduce rajas, avoid rajastic food such as spicy, fried food and stimulants, over exercising and over working. To increase sattva, decrease rajas and tamas, increase sattvic food in take such as whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables, and immerse oneself in positive thoughts and activities that bring joy.
“When one rises above the three gunas that originate in the body; one is freed from birth, old age, disease, and death; and attains enlightenment” – Bhagavad Gita