What Are The 3 Gunas?

Gunas: The Three Forces of Nature

The three gunas, or forces of nature, are known as rajas, tamas, and sattva. They are often referred to as the threads that hold together this material reality in which we live.

The three gunas illustrate the concept that the natural world has three main dispositions, and the world is, in a sense, woven out of these three dispositions.

This concept of these three forces of nature is a somewhat revolutionary one, brought forth by the yoga tradition during the period in which the Upanishads were created. The gunas are mentioned again by Krishna early on in the story of the Bhagavad Gita.

The gunas not only provide us with a way to comprehend the material world in which we live, but also with a kind of guide to understanding and walking the spiritual path of yoga.

Essentially, the gunas give us a prescription for understanding why things exist in the natural world the way they do and also how the natural world organizes itself.

SEE ALSO: Using Yoga To Tap Into Your Internal Healing Potential

The Three Gunas

The triad of the three gunas, which make up the qualities of nature include tamas, rajas, and sattva. Tamas is the energy that shows up with a quality of darkness, cold, entropy, heaviness, and illusion.

It holds the characteristics of the past. Rajas is the energy that shows up in the material world as having qualities of heat, perturbation, passion, unwanted activity, and even sorrow.

One could look at rajas guna and associate it with the future. Then we have the ideal state of sattva, which is characterized by harmony, balance, purity, goodness and knowledge.

Sattva shows us an optimal state of being, one in which we can aspire to as yogis. Sattva transcends both tamas and rajas and can be associated with the present and with pure consciousness as it unfolds before us.

According to the teachings of the gunas, everything is made up of these three forces to some extent or another, and everything is dominant in one guna at any given time.

To better understand the three gunas and how they manifest within our own beings as humans, this is what it feels like to be dominant in each one:


If you’re feeling overly tamasic, then you have inertia. Getting out of bed in the morning is difficult, and you carry a feeling of dullness and lack of motivation throughout the day. Sometimes we need tamasic energy when it’s time to rest and restore.

Sometimes we need tamasic energy when it’s time to rest and restore.


When you’re feeling overly rajasic, you’re in a perturbed, hyper-active state of being – one in which the mind is agitated and running amok.

We do however, need this energy to get us up and going at the start of our day.


If you’re dominant in sattvic energy, then you feel pure, balanced and harmonious.

The mind is clear and there’s a sense of calm and ease. Sattva helps us tap into our intuition and higher wisdom.

The key here is to understand that all three will play within us throughout the day and throughout our lives, so we want to learn how to be comfortable in each state.


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Aimee Hughes


Aimee Hughes is a health and spirituality writer, author of The Sexy Vegan Kitchen: Culinary Adventures in Love & Sex,…

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