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Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Gunas

The Gunas are a major aspect of Ayurvedic and Yogic philosophy. They are the three qualities of nature that all things are made up of - energy, matter and consciousness. They are in everything that we see, hear and touch. They are in our food, in our bodies and in our mind. Just like the doshas these three qualities are evident in each and everyone of us but the proportional balance will differer due to our thoughts, feeling and actions. Let's have a look at each one individually.

Tamas is mass, it is heavy and dull. It is the quality that holds us back or keeps us down. Like all things in nature it has a purpose and without the mass of our body, our muscles and bones we would not be able to stand. Without the Earth we would have nowhere to live. Most of us live a very tamassic life, we sit for hours, drive everywhere and do little exercise. This is not good and does not help us in any way. So we need to work towards reducing our tamassic way of living as much as we can.  

Rajas is action and transformation. It is what we need to move and change. It’s what gets us out of bed in the morning and keeps the planets circling the Sun. The energy of rajas is very positive but we must remember that although fire is helpful in many ways if it not controlled it can be destructive.  We need to watch that we do not have too much rajas in our lives. 

Sattva is clarity, light and and illumination.  It is a state of peacefulness and serenity. Sattva is what we want most of in our lives. It is the goal of meditators, yogis and most people on a spiritual path. It is harmony and bliss and is achieved but reducing both tamas and rajas and following a sattvic diet and lifestyle. 

As BKS Iyengar said in his book ‘Light on Life” - “The interplay of these three forces are of crucial importance in your yoga practice. You have to learn to identify and observe them in order to be able to adjust their proportion and as you penetrate inward, bring the beauty of sattva to the surface.”
So how do we adjust the proportions? How can we change our guna balance? Well we can start with our agni- what eat and how we digest it. We have all heard the expression “you are what you eat”, it is very, very true. What happens when we eat a big bowl of pasta in a rich creamy sauce? We feel heavy. The food is heavy so we too become heavy. How about a chilli? It’s hot a spicy. When we eat it we become hot. So as you can see the guna quality of the food will effect our bodies. The ancient rishis of India studied food and determined the qualities of the gunas in what we eat and categorised them accordingly.  You will notice that not only are different kinds of foods listed, but also their tastes and preparations, as all will effect the quality.

Tamasic foods

Fermented foods
Over ripe
Left over foods
Tobacco and other intoxicants
Foods that are over-processed, no longer fresh and difficult to digest are tamasic.

Rajasic foods

Many ground foods 
Eating in a hurry

Sattvic foods
Light soothing and easy to digest
Sprouted whole grains
Fresh fruit
Land and sea vegetables
Pure fruit juices
Nut and seed milk and cheese
Sprouted seeds
Herb teas
Sattvic foods are those that don’t aggravate the stomach at all.

Agni is our digestive fire and usually when people hear the word digestion they think about food. But what about all the things that we digest everyday that we have not eaten? The world is full of images and sounds that we digest with our eyes, ears and thoughts every second of every day. Images and sounds that are what I call junk food for the soul. Just as I don’t want to eat a big mac, I don’t want to watch or see violence. It makes going to the video store a real challenge! TV is another big mind and spirit polluter and at the start of the year I stopped watching it. Apart from the programs that TV is filled with there are all those commercials. That subtle brainwashing that we need certain things, or need to be a certain way to make us happy, part of the norm or to show our success.  I feel so much better since I turned it all off. I feel more at peace and less agitated not having to digest such negative images and thoughts. How can I meditate and find peace if I am surrounded with the very opposite?  

So to feed you mind well. Turn off the TV, put on some lovely music, light some insence and read some spiritual or positive books. Talk to your children, partner or friend. Sing, dance, draw, do something that makes you happy and leads you to a good place. Give without wanting anything in return. Stop thinking so much and pushing your self. Learn to meditate and join a yoga class. If your in a bit of a rut or have lost motivation then work on your will power. Set a goal and stick to it. Get off the couch and out into the world. Live life as it was intended, full of positive energy, positive thoughts and positive words. 

Eat sattvic, live sattvic, be sattvic!