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A Yogi’s Diet : The 3 Gunas

The three Gunas are classifications of quality of energy in all things used in Yoga Science and Ayurvedic medicine. A Guna is one of three “tendencies” of the mind, body and consciousness. The three gunas are called rajas, tamas and sattva. These categories describe our behavior, thinking, health and diet.

Sattvic Diet is the purest diet, the most suitable one for any serious student of Yoga. It nourishes the body and maintains it in a peaceful state. And it calms and purifies the mind, enabling it to function at its maximum potential. These foods will also raise our consciousness, inspire us to positive action, deeper meditation and unleash our hidden potential and creativity. A Sattvic diet thus leads to true health; a peaceful mind in control of a fit body, with a balanced flow of energy between them. Sattvic foods include cereals, wholemeal bread, fresh fruits and vegetables, pure fruit juices, milk, butter and cheese, nuts, seeds, honey and herb teas.

Rajasic Diet consists of foods that are very hot, bitter, sour, dry or salty. They destroy the mind-body equilibrium, feeding the body at the expense of the mind. Too much Rajasic food will over-stimulate the body and excite the passions, making the mind restless and uncontrollable. Rajasic foods include overly spicy or hot substances, such as sharp spices or strong herbs, onions and garlic, stimulants such as coffee and teas, fish, poultry, eggs, salt and chocolate. Eating in a hurry is also considered rajastic. A rajasic person will eat on the run, rush food and experience poor digestion and health as a result.

A Tamasic diet benefits neither the mind nor the body. Prana, or energy is withdrawn, powers of reasoning become clouded and a sense of inertia sets in. The body’s resistance to disease is destroyed and the mind filled with dark emotions, such as anger and greed Tamasic food includes overnight food, meat, alchohol, tobacco, fermented foods such as vinegar and stale overripe substances. Overeating is also considered tamastic.

In each of us there is a proportion of each Guna. Without Tamas, we could not sleep and without Rajas, we would lack dynamism and without Sattva, life would be uninspiring and without the higher human qualities. A yogi is aiming to increase sattva to raise consciousness through a healthy body and a peaceful mind.

Personally, after I have started yoga, I am more conscious of my daily dietary plan now. I tend to eat healthier based on the 3 gunas – sattvic, rajasic and tamasic. I incorporate these 3 gunas daily to get a balanced diet without torturing the body by starving and refraining from my cravings, which will lead to ahimsa. I avoid high carbohydrate and high glucose food such as white rice, white bread, instant noodles, pizzas and burgers and take more high fibre and wholemeal products such as red rice, wholemeal bread and fresh blended juice. I also take lesser fatty food such as tuna, fried food and heavy gravy food. Not only that, I have also refrained myself from taking alcoholic beverages. There is a state of contentment knowing that my body is transforming to be healthier and stronger, which is santosha.

Thus, it’s important to recognize where we are right now, know that we have the tools to get where we want to be, and medicate appropriately with the correct doses of sattva, rajas, and tamas. Food can be that medicine, and now you know a little more about how to use it.

[Sharon Phang; 200 Hr YTT Hatha Vinyasa]