Ever wonder why we feel clear minded and connected on some days and agitated and anxious on others? And on others still, we may feel sluggish, unmotivated and unproductive. Sometimes our lives feel full of highs and lows. We may feel we’re just being pulled along for the ride.
In yoga, these variations in energy flow are called gunas. The word guna literally translates to “quality of life”. The three gunas, tamas, rajas, and sattva, can provide powerful insights into the energy at play in our bodies and minds.
Tamas guna is a slow, dark and heavy energy. When this guna shows up in excess, you may feel:
a lack of passion and luster for life
or stuck in a rut.
Too much tamas leaves us with a blocked or sluggish energy flow that weighs down our hearts, bodies and spirits.
The second guna, rajas, is light, sharp, mobile and quick. When we are under the spell of excessive rajas, we may feel:
an inability to stop moving or relax
This guna can leave us with too much movement in our system, potentially pushing us into further out of balance within our lives.
The third guna is sattva. Sattva is the experience of balanced, integrated wholeness. We experience sattva after a good yoga class, while watching a beautiful sunset, or in the woods listening to the sounds of nature. We can think of this as a time when our nervous system switches out of fight/flight (rajas) or freeze (tamas) into rest and digest mode. Yoga and Ayurveda aim to bring our bodies and minds into a sattvic state, because sattva is the energy that best supports our awakening, vitality, and well-being.
The gunas are not inherently good or bad. They are simply different manifestations of energy in our systems based on our diet, lifestyle habits, emotions, and thoughts. Our tendency toward rajas, tamas, or sattva is also the continuation of our previous life experience, according to yogic philosophy, While sattva may seem like the ideal place to be, tamas and rajas have their own gifts to offer which can be overlooked. Without tamas, we would never experience deep rest. Without rajas, we would lack the motivation and drive to keep us working toward our goals.
The chart below explores tamasic and rajasic iimbalances, as well as some ways to bring the body back into balance, sattva.
This article was originally published through Colorado Yoga Life Magazine.