Seeking Sattva



If you remember there are three Gunas which characterize our state of mind, i.e. tamas, rajas and sattva. Simply stated tamas denotes stability without energy, rajas denotes energy without stability and sattva is energy with stability; of these a sattvic mind is our aim.



To see some of the characteristics of each Guna take a look at the table below which is based on Dr Frawley's work. See if you can see which descriptions best apply to you!



State of Mind                  Sattva                          Rajas                                 Tamas                            
DietVegetarianSome meatHeavy meat diet
Drugs, alcohol & stimulantsNeverOccasionally Frequently
Sensory impressionsCalmAgitatedDulled
Need for sleepLittleModerateHigh
MovementGraceful, balancedAgitated, excessiveSlow, lacksadaisical
Control of sensesGoodModerateLow
WorkSelflessFor personal goalsLazy
Peace of mindGenerallyPartlyRarely
Service to othersMuchSomeNone
Total for each column   

We will usually find that most people who are interested in ayurveda and yoga will possess varying degrees of rajas and sattva because those who are very tamasic will have little interest in these subjects! 



However generally speaking in ayurveda and yoga we need to first get energy moving i.e. break up tamas, then we need to direct energy i.e. focus rajas, finally we stabilize energy to create sattva. This may seem a little too theoretical so let us look at this in a little more detail. 



Well if a person displays tamasic qualities we will gradually introduce rajasic type therapies and activities so the inertia of tamas begins to dissolve, this might include some stimulating massage or gentle asana gradually over time leading to more vigorous yoga asana, excluding or reducing tamasic types foods and drinks such as leftovers, congestive foods such as those containing large amounts of fats, or an excess of sweet cakes, biscuits etc., and we might introduce some personal goals to achieve such as getting up a little earlier day.



When rajas is evident we can work to calm rajas so now for instance we might include some soothing massage and balancing, calming asana, excluding or reducing rajasic types foods and drinks such as red meats, caffeine, alcoholic spirits or heavily spiced hot foods, we might also introduce some relaxation techniques, self-examination, short meditations and some self-less goals to achieve.


Then once there is some sattva we can seek to perfect this sattva so now for example we can focus more upon meditation and contemplation as it now possible to expand our sense of stillness and universality. Hopefully these examples give you a little idea of how we can gradually move from tamas to rajas to sattva!



To help you in your own journey towards a more sattvic state of mind it can be very helpful to take a kind of inventory of how you spend your time as this can be very instructive. To do this you can make two columns with the first column heading of 'Supportive Practices' and the second column headed being 'Un-supportive Practices'. Go on to honestly list all your daily activities in the appropriate column. For instance you may find there are 5 hours of watching television, 1 hour of reading newspapers, 4 hours traveling to work, 30 minutes eating lunch whilst working at the computer, all of which might be considered un-supportive practices or you may find there is 30 minutes of yoga practice, 15 minutes of meditation, 90 minutes of playing with your children, 1 hour walking in nature or 6 hours of focused work all of which might be considered supportive practices.


Take a look at your columns and see if there is a better way to structure your day or your week, for example could there be more balance in the short term if you took at least 30 minutes for lunch away from your desk, could you join a group in the evening once or twice a week rather than always watching television or is it possible to make the journey to work more supportive?; perhaps in the longer term you can seek to make other changes so perhaps you can work more at home or change jobs, perhaps you can get a gym membership so you are able to swim at a suitable time. There are many possibilities and your most sattvic choices will to a large extent be personal ones!



It is true however that there are some general rules we can follow which will also move us towards a sattvic state of mind where the mind and body feel nourished and light. Take a look at the pointers below and see if any of these are already established for you or if there are any you could introduce into your diet and lifestyle.



General guidelines to increasing sattva guna

  • Eat pranic-full fresh foods, ripened as naturally as possible; locally grown foods are great as they will contain the qualities most suitable for your geographical location and season.
  • Choose whole-foods rather than refined foods or processed foods; in particular avoid excesses amount of simple sugars which create energetic and emotional roller-costers, increase fermentation within the intestines, lower immunity etc. instead focusing upon more complex sugars such as those found in fruits, cereals, grains etc.
  • Reduce or omit heavy red meats which take a very long time to be digested properly, and reduce dairy products which can be very congestive.
  • Never take cold foods or drinks straight from the refrigerator as these dampen down digestion; only take cold drinks when you are very hot, otherwise at room temperature, warm or hot depending upon your constitution.
  • Reduce or ideally avoid caffeine as this agitates the nervous system and the mind, if having a little coffee this can be helpful for those with a good deal of kapha to get them moving in the morning and it can be used occasionally after meals to help close down digestion. If taking coffee a little cardamom will help negate its negative effects
  • Finish your meal whilst you still feel a little hungry so in a scale where 0 is very hungry and 10 is satiated to the point where you feel heavy and tired you complete the meal at around 7, indeed ayurveda says eat as much as you can fit into your palms when cupped together.
  • Leave a minimum of 4 hours between meals and do not eat later than 10.00pm.
  • Chew thoroughly and always eat in agreeable company, avoiding eating when emotionally upset.
  • Only drink sips of room temperature water whilst eating.
  • Have an appropriate amount of sleep according to your constitution.
  • Take regular exercise which again will be according to your age and constitution. 
  • Spend time nurturing yourself yourself which may include a regular massage, time with friends or walking in nature so this always balances your responsibilities.


These are general guidelines however, with points which hold true for all of us, but and of course as ayurveda works in a more individualized way then each of us must ultimately choose what is called a Shamana diet and lifestyle which pacifies particular doshas, so for instance a person with a vata/pitta constitution will need to adopt a vata/pitta Shamana diet and lifestyle and so on.


To check out shamana programs please click here.