The Three Gunas and The Yogi Diet

What are the three Gunas

The three Gunas are fundamental attributes that creates the essential aspects of all nature – energy, matter and consciousness. All three gunas are always present and varies in their relative amounts. Each of us have the unique ability to consciously alter the levels of the gunas in our bodies and minds. A guna can be increased or decreased through the interaction and influence of external objects, lifestyle practices and thoughts. The three Gunas are Tamas, Rajas and Sattva.


Tamas is a state of darkness, inertia, inactivity and materiality. Tamas manifests from ignorance and deludes all beings from their spiritual truths


Rajas is a state of energy, action, change and movement. The nature of rajas is of attraction, longing and attachment and rajas strongly binds us to the fruits of our work.


Sattva is a state of harmony, balance, joy and intelligence. Sattva is the guna that yogis seeks to achieve towards as it reduces Rajas and Tamas and thus makes liberation possible.

The Yogi Diet

The Yoga Diet is one the Five Principles of Yoga that improves one’s health and make you feel stronger. The yogi diet can also be classified under the three Gunas which are Sattvic, Rajasic and Tamasic.
Sattvic Food

  • The purest diet
  • Most suitable for any serious student of Yoga
  • Nourishes the body and maintains it in a peaceful state
  • Calms and purifies the mind, enabling it to function at its maximum potential
  • Leads to true health; a peaceful mind in control of a fit body, with a balanced flow of energy between them

Sattvic foods include:

  • Cereals
  • Wholemeal bread
  • Fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Pure fruit juices
  • Milk
  • Butter and cheese
  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Sprouted seeds
  • Honey and herb teas

Rajasic Food

  • Very spicy, bitter, sour, dry or salty food
  • Tilt the balance of mind-body equilibrium, feeding the body at the expense of the mind
  • Too much Rajastic food will over-stimulate the body and excite the passions, making the mind restless and uncontrollable
  • Eating in a hurry is also considered Rajasic

Rajasic foods include:

  • Hot substances, such as sharp spices or strong herbs
  • Stimulants such as coffee and teas
  • Eggs
  • Salt

Tamasic Food

  • A Tamasic Diet benefits neither the mind nor the body
  • Energy is withdrawn, powers of reasoning become clouded and a sense of inertia sets in
  • The body’s immunities to disease is affected and fills the mind with dark emotions, such as anger and greed
  • Overeating is also considered Tamasic

Tamasic food includes:

  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Alchohol
  • Fermented foods such as vinegar
  • Mushroom (Grow in darkness)
  • Deep fried food
  • Stale overripe substances


In during practice in yoga, I came to realize that all three Gunas exists in us. Like an apple tree, some fruits are ripe; represents Sattvic, some are ripening; represents rajasic and some overripe; represents Tamasic. No matter what quality prevails, an element of each of the other two will always be present as well. Each Guna serves a purpose and contributes to an overall balanced way of living. Although many would feel that Tamas sound completely negative, we require the quality of Tamas every night when we settle in for sleep, as well as when our bodies need rest to recover from illness or periods of over-exhaustion. Rajas is the movement and activity of the body and mind. We need rajas to go about the business of our lives, from eating to working to entertainment. I feel that the key is to balance both of the two Gunas while cultivating Sattva as the predominate element.
Before I came into practice in yoga, my eating habits tend to go toward Tamasic food. As this energy takes forms it predominates and I gradually slipped into a mindless ignorance of my needs and turned into a sluggish resistance to life. Yoga teachings made me understand the elements and the need to balance them. And to balance them I would have to start with my eating habits. With constant practice I began switching more to Sattvic food with a dose of Rajasic and Tamasic food to keep the balance.


As we embrace Sattva and begin to attend in balancing our Gunas, we must remember to be gentle and supportive with ourselves. 

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