to Ayurveda, Samkhya philosophy and Yoga, all of creation is made up of three qualities called sattva,
rajas and tamas. These qualities (gunas), along with our physical constitution, strongly influence our mental state.
Sattva – creative; clear; harmonious
Rajas – activity; movement
Tamas –inertia; dullness; lethargy
each contain all of the gunas in varying degrees and they are in
constant interplay with each other. Excessive rajas and tamas have a
disturbing influence upon the mind, so the aim is to reduce them and increase sattva to about 70%.
good news is that we can make choices via our diet and lifestyle, and in this
way influence which guna we allow to predominate in our lives.
GUNAS & FOOD
Ayurveda, foods are categorised in a variety of ways. One of these ways
is observing if the food has a sattvic (harmonising), rajasic (agitating) or tamasic (dulling) influence upon the mind.
sattva we know the most beneficial action to take and we take it.
SATTVIC FOODS are full
of prana, easy to digest and light, such as lightly cooked organic vegetables,
ripe fruit, nuts and seeds, raw honey, ginger, fennel seeds, cardamom and small
amounts of ghee (clarified butter). Pure cows’ milk is considered sattvic in
Ayurveda, if taken from cows raised in a peaceful environment. In cases
of increased toxins including
lymphatic congestion and high cholesterol (common in kapha dosha types), care must be taken in consuming dairy. In
Ayurveda, milk is taken warm, not cold, as cold dairy increases phlegm. If
dairy doesn’t agree with you, alternatives include rice and oat milk, which are
good substitutes, although not listed as sattvic.
TO INCREASE SATTVA we
need to engage in sattvic foods and activities. These could include
gentle Yoga, pranayama, meditation,
chi gung, tai chi – all performed in a peaceful and
non-goal-oriented way - walking in a peaceful environment, and listening to
relaxing and uplifting music. Another important consideration is limiting our
exposure to those situations, substances and people, which we know will disturb
RAJAS: All forms of movement and activity are influenced by rajas.
We need movement to get things done in life, but excessive rajas brings
restlessness and hyper-activity. The mind cannot rest, resulting in fear,
anxiety and agitation.
imbalanced, rajas leads to excessive pride, competitiveness, aggression,
and jealousy. People with a lot of rajas tend to value power, prestige,
business and success on the material level. Impulsive actions are taken that
are later regretted and which disturb the mind.
with rajasic temperaments tend towards fanaticism. While they hold their
beliefs, they hold them very strongly, trying to convert others. There is often
frenetic activity and drama surrounding them. Their minds are so full that they
don’t really listen to any advice they may seek.
the positive side, we need some rajas to get things done and to set and
achieve our goals.
When rajas is in excess, we know in our hearts what is the most
beneficial action to take, but the mind chooses to take us elsewhere.
Excessive exercise to the
point of over-exertion is rajasic and disturbing to the system, as is
excessive thinking, talking, travelling, working or any kind of over-stimulation.
Talking on the telephone, hours on the computer, exposing ourselves to anything
violent including on screen, will all have a disturbing effect upon the mind.
RAJASIC FOODS stimulate and irritate the system. Junk foods like
potato chips and chocolate bars, excessively sweet, salty, spicy or pungent
foods (such as raw onions and garlic), can cause the mind to become agitated
and disturbed. Most legumes and beans increase rajas slightly, creating
wind; to make them easier to digest, they need to be taken with appropriate
oils and spices.
TAMAS is the way nature completes or destroys
things. Although we do need some tamas to help us sleep and rest,
excessive tamas dulls the mind, making us inert, lazy and depressed.
Individuals with a strong tamasic nature engage in a self-destructive
diet and lifestyle. They tend to eat, drink and have sex excessively
(gluttonous). They likely take drugs and drink alcohol in large quantities. As
the tamasic mind becomes dull, heavy and confused, the individual
becomes increasingly less caring about themselves and others.
The mind becomes so dull, that they can’t
articulate clearly, and need assistance to help themselves. It is unlikely that they will read an article like
this, or show up to Yoga class unless dragged there by someone else.
When tamas is in excess, the individual truly needs help, as the
ability to discriminate between what is beneficial or not, is weak. The mind
has become so unclear, that it can no longer be relied upon to make good
TAMASIC FOODS are lacking in prana and do not support life.
These include old and leftover food, deeply fried food, excessive meat, chicken,
seafood, eggs, hard cheeses. Alcohol and drugs are tamasic and can also have a rajasic
effect. Certain herbs and spices, such as nutmeg have a dulling effect upon
the mind, which is why in cases of insomnia, nutmeg is used as a traditional
aid to sleep. Although nutmeg is tamasic,
it is relatively less tamasic and
damaging than a heavy drug.
TO BALANCE TAMAS means clearing out
the cobwebs in the brain. Fresh air, peaceful yet dynamic exercise and sattvic
food, lifestyle and environment will all help.