What Are Gunas, And Why Do I Care?
According to yogic philosophy, all matter (including us) is comprised of three parts:
- Sattva, which represents spirit, light, calmness, and peace
- Rajas, which represents fire, movement, and change
- Tamas, which represents darkness and inertia
If you delve into yogic philosophy, you’ll see that a lot has been written about the gunas, and it can get pretty intense.
Let’s cut through some of that intensity and develop an understanding of how to embrace what the gunas mean to us on a daily basis.
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The Basics of Gunas
All the gunas have a place in our lives and in our beings, so the question is, how do we identify or nurture each of the gunas to become well rounded?
Each individual does have a predisposition toward one of these gunas.
Let’s start with sattva.
Sounds great, right? Who doesn’t want to be calm and peaceful?
Of course we do, but too much sattva—without the other gunas—can lead to feeling ungrounded and foggy.
So, how about rajas?
Fire and change sound pretty powerful, but too much rajas can lead to restlessness.
Tamas sounds dreary, right?
Too much can make you tired and lazy, but tamas can also help you feel grounded.
Lifestyle Choices to Cultivate Gunas
Sattva foods are yogic foods. They are pure and nourish the body.
They are items such as fruits, vegetables, organic milk/dairy, ghee, grains, sprouts, etc. Eating slowly and thoughtfully without distractions, such as computers, TV, or reading, helps promote sattva.
Sattva can also be cultivated through meditation, yoga, routines, getting enough sleep, and doing work that is good for the world.
Rajastic foods are more unbalanced or excessive, such as too salty, too hot, too bitter, etc. They are items such as sharp spices, chocolate, caffeinated coffee, and teas.
Rajastic activities are overdoing, such as working too much, rushing too much, being competitive, and trying to change others.
Tamastic foods do not benefit our mind or our body.
They are heavy and old.
Examples include meat, leftovers, microwaved foods, fast food, alcohol, etc. Tamastic activities are overeating, inactivity, stealing, horror stories, and gossip.
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The Benefits of Choosing Sattva
Perhaps you can slowly start to look at your normal food and drink.
Think about which guna they might represent and whether or not that is the guna you would like to cultivate.
See if you can can choose more sattva foods and activities for at least a couple of weeks, and then reevaluate how you feel.
I think though that we can all agree that sattva is the guna we would like to cultivate.
Keep in mind: All matter has gunas, and we can apply that principle to how and what we eat and what we choose to do.
I know it is unrealistic for most of us in this world, to lead a completely sattva lifestyle, but we have the ability to make choices to help us work toward a more calm and peaceful existence.
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