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Natural Awakenings Central New Jersey


The Gunas

Jan 30, 2021 03:51PM ● By Nicole Zornitzer

In a world of uncertainty and fear it is important that we take time to practice self-care and mindful behavior. In Ayurveda and yoga, we discuss the human need to move beyond mere survival to find meaning in our lives. Ayurveda philosophy provides a platform for people to connect with their true nature and the elements that surround them to better balance their lives. 

In Sanskrit/Ayurveda there are three primal qualities that are viewed by many as the measure to determine our spiritual growth, they are the subtle qualities of energy that surface in the mind and body and propel us from this life into the next. These are called the gunas and they are:

1. Sattva

2. Rajas

3. Tamas

Sattva creates harmony and stability while rajas is change or activity and tamas is inertia. When we dive deeper into sattva, we find pure consciousness that brings a sense of calmness and unification of mind, body and soul. Raja and tamas create mental and emotional imbalance or agitation. Therefore, it is fair to say that universally right now our society has been functioning (or dis-functioning) in the realms of raja and tamas. 

Raja causes us to seek happiness outside of ourselves and leads to distortion of what contentment is. Tamas creates ignorance and separation of self or the introduction of the ego. From an Ayurvedic perspective, rajas causes pain and agitation whereas tamas brings about stagnation. Our vision is to balance both of these gunas by finding a place of sattva or peace. Sattva is responsible for health and healing. 

The unification of mind, body and spirit includes a variety of modalities. To reach a more sattvic lifestyle we use nature, energy (prana) and the power of the mind to encourage health. Such methods may include adjusting the diet, adding herbs, creating a personal sadhana, introducing mantra into daily life, utilizing sound or color therapy and, of course, meditation. While raja, at face value, holds a negative connotation, it is important to understand that the incorporation of more rajastic behaviors when appropriate can assist in breaking up tamastic tendencies (or inertia). Therefore, the stimuli that occurs in a rajastic behavior encourages the release of tamas which ultimately will lead the individual to a sattvic life.

The view of the body from the perspective of the gunas is something that takes time to absorb mentally and transforms into change over time. Evolution is work. The commitment to a life of balance and health requires that we embrace the idea of patience. Our goal in yoga and Ayurveda is to not only find inner peace, but a universal sense of peace. It goes without saying that if more of our population embraced this idea we would not be riddled with anger, fear, negativity or resentment. Let’s each make an effort to not only overcome our pain, let’s develop joy within us and around us. 

Nicole Zornitzer, ERYT 1000, yoga therapist, founder of Niyama Yoga & Wellness Shala, located in Randolph, New Jersey, and Upper Lake Mohawk in Sparta, New Jersey.


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