Gunas - The three fundamentals and what you should know!

Guna is a concept in Hinduism that means “quality, peculiarity, attribute and property”. There are three gunas, which are present in all things and work to define someone or something, which helps with the progress of life.

We will explore these gunas, which consists of sattva, rajas and tamas. The gunas describe the modes of the material world - the stuff that makes up the essence of how we operate. It is linked to Ayurveda as any one of the doshas can be impacted by the gunas to create a better or worse outcome.

As we continue to develop on how food and Ayurveda are linked together, we will explore the use of gunas in the way we look after and nourish our body.

Food and Gunas

The gunas, or qualities, are used for us to attribute the differences of all substances. It is the qualities that allow us to identify how we feel and understand the comparisons - so if something is too hot or too cold.

Ayurveda identifies the 10 pairs of opposites that can be very useful as medicine. There are also pairings that represent nature’s system of balances, which are present in all things - including the human body. Some of these comparisons include moist and dry, heavy and light, cold and hot.

If a group or quality is used in excess (or lack of), imbalance can happen. For example, an abundance of hot chilli peppers without something smoothing or cool - like rice, seems unpleasant. These opposites complement each other.

In Ayurveda, it is always encouraged to work with balance. This will come from introducing these qualities opposite to those that promote imbalance - while also reducing similar qualities. For example, you might eat lighter (cooler) foods in the summer, but avoid then in winter (eating heavy and warm foods).

Plants, meats, fruits, minerals and activities are all substances and experiences used in medicine to have an effect on the body. These can be made up of one or more of the twenty qualities.

We know spicy food makes us sweat and this means heat and oil. For a fruit, it makes us feel cool and light. So, when you start to think about the sensations in your body (or the imbalances), you can use food as medicine.

Food as medicine

When you start to understand the imbalances in your body, you can use qualities to create a balancing effect in your body. The qualities can then be divided into two categories - building and lightening. The balance of these two energies in the body is key to maintaining balance.

The building qualities are anabolic and work to build mass and nourish the tissue. It encourages moisture and strength to stabilise and ground your body. So for example, comfort food that makes your body feel warm, supported and safe (like a soup).

The lightening qualities are catabolic. They reduce the mass and the tissues to eliminate excess mucus and put more energy into your step. Lightening foods work to make you feel refreshed and rejuvenated. This might be ginger tea, steamed vegetables or fresh fruit.

What are the Gunas?

Gunas are defined by three different components (listed below).

  • Tamas (tamasic) - Mode of inertia and heaviness

  • Rajas (rajasic) - Mode of passion and action

  • Sattva (sattvic) - Mode of sweetness and compassion

How does gunas link to food and the doshas of Ayurveda (more on this soon). But here is how we break it down with food. If the food tastes good, promotes health and strength, it is sattva. If the food is spicy, oversalted and causes illness it is rajas. Finally, if the food is unwanted by others and is not fit as an offering (maybe stale) it is tamas.

What are Doshas? (a Recap)

To refresh your memory on the doshas. These are the constitutions of Ayurveda, and are also broken down into three elements. These work together with the gunas to help with balance.

  • Kapha – Earth + Water energy

  • Pitta – Fire + Water energy

  • Vata – Air + Ether energy

For more information about the elements, check the Align with the Elements 5 day Challenge.

How Gunas & Doshas Interact

All the gunas are balanced through incremental and steady effort over time. We need to be diligent, disciplined and focused regardless of our dosha to stay in a sattvic state.

Hanging out with other people on the same path will help and the food we eat can allow us to be in the sattvic state.

When you know your constitution and are aware of the state of gunas you are in - you can see how to get back to the state of sattva. It would be as simple as eating the right foods, but of course, there are other activities you can do to get yourself back to the right state - find out more about those here.

Table inspired by the work of Bhakti Rose

“Remember the LAW OF SUPER EFFORT. Be the constant, not the variable. Keep your commitments and don’t succumb to the desire to skip regimented work. Make decisions based on your commitments rather than on how you feel at a given moment. Do not be replaced by a lower version of yourself. Be who you say you are.” - Biet Simpkin

Final thoughts

Gunas is not just linked or related to food, it works with the activities and experiences we have in life. Understanding your dosha is important to be aware of for when imbalance occurs, you know what guna you are in during that time.

Everything is in imbalance, the yang and the yang. Find oneness with yourself. The food you put in your body, social media, music you listen to - bring the consciousness to be in balance.

This will allow you to eat the foods and do the activities that will bring back (if needed) to the state of sattva! It all comes down to that level of self awareness.

Are you ready for balance in your life? Are you ready to understand the foods you eat and the activities you do and how they impact you, your body and life? Join the Goddess Embodiment Sisterhood to embrace your divine feminine, spark your own spiritual light and become your own muse.

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