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Article: Let’s Talk Gunas

Let’s Talk Gunas

Let’s Talk Gunas

Let’s Talk Gunas 

In Ayurveda, rooted in the eastern Samkhya philosophy, there are three basic qualities of nature that are present in everything in the universe and that make us who we are. The balance of these qualities also dictate our thinking and behaviors and impact every aspect of our lives, including our relationships, our physical health, and our state of mind. The gunas are not material, but are subtle qualities that impact how we experience our life. The balance of these qualities, or gunas, determine the level of satisfaction we can experience in our day-to-day lives, including at work.

Let’s review these concepts, or gunas:


This is the experience of clarity, lightness, purity, stillness, and contentment. Anything that has these qualities within it will increase sattva within us. This can include foods, thoughts, or activities. When we cultivate sattva in our lives we feel happy, at peace, creative, fulfilled, and inspired. Examples of things that increase sattva include:

  • Fresh and unprocessed foods such as fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains.
  • Clean, orderly, and calming environments
  • Spending time in nature, gardening, or moderate exercise
  • Reading uplifting or spiritual literature
  • Meditation and service to others


This is the experience of activity, motion, stimulation, energy, and passion. With excess rajas we can feel restless, greedy, anxious, and aggressive. Anything that increases these qualities will increase the rajas within us. Some of these things include:

  • Overly spicy or salty foods, sugar, caffeine
  • Noisy, chaotic, and disordered environments
  • Too much activity, excessive exercise, or travel
  • Watching sensationalist news or action-packed, fast-paced movies


This is the experience of dullness, inertia, inactivity, sluggishness, and lethargy. With excess tamas we feel unmotivated, sad, bored, and apathetic. Things that increase tamas in us include:

  • Processed foods, refined flour and sugar, meat, alcohol
  • Cluttered, dirty environments
  • Too much passive entertainment such as TV or internet surfing
  • Watching extremely violent movies

All of the gunas play a role in our life, as there are times when we need rajas to engage in activity and movement. There are also times we need tamas so we can wind down, rest, and sleep. Ideally, we minimize things that increase rajas and tamas. Overall, these gunas need to be kept in balance in order for sattva to be dominant in our lives.

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