Sattva, Rajas, Tamas: The Three 'Gunas' Of Nature

  • 29 Jan 2020

Nizha Periaswamy

Yoga is often misunderstood as being only about exercie, and breathing or meditation. 

In fact, yoga is a spiritual development to train the body and mind to self-observe and become aware of its own nature. According to the yoga philosophy, every human being is influenced by certain 'gunas' or quality of reality that can affect our psychological, emotional and energetic states. 

There are 3 'gunas' present in all objects, with one quality always being more dominant than the others. The 3 gunas as Sattva (purity), Rajas (action), and Tamas (destruction). 

Now let's look at the characteristics of the 3 gunas and how they can play their roles.


Sattva is the quality of goodness, happiness, gratification, nobility, and serenity. It manifests the character of being pure and forgiving. Generally, sattva can be increased in many ways, one of its being diet practices. 

Eating sattvic food, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and legumes, fresh and pure food items which grow above ground, will provide positive energy. 

Practising yoga, mixing with positive people, doing activities that make us happy can also increase the sattvic elements in our minds and body.


Rajas is a quality of desire, action, vigour and motion. It manifests in attachment, longing for satisfaction and pleasure. 

One can reduce rajasic elements by avoiding fried and spicy food, food that are high in additives and stimulants, such as caffeine. Other ways include avoiding over-exercise, overwork, excessive thinking and accummulating material goods. 


Tamas is manifested as contamination, laziness, and darkness. It is a consequence of ignorance. Tamasic elements can be reduced by avoiding oversleeping, overeating, inactivity, dullness, and passivity.

Tamasic food include heavy meats that are spoiled, chemically treated, processed, or refined.

According to teh Bhagavadgita, a sattvic person attains higher worlds upon death, while his rajasic and tamasic counterparts remain in the middle worlds and the lowest regions, respectively. 

A sattvic person is then reborn as a pious person, or in a pious family, while a rajas will be reborn in a family which is attached to actions. A tamas, meanwhile, will be among the ignorant and deluded. 

All the 3 gunas are also said to influence, faith, resolve, professional choices, and nature of relationships. 

Nizha Periaswamy is a yoga instructor and freelance writer.

Photo source: Pixabay

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