Ayurveda and Yoga, given as sister sciences thousands of years ago, help us find balance in our lives, bodies and minds. In modern times, when we are pulled from one urgent task to the next, find relief in “vegging out” and eat for convenience, these ancient teachings of balance have never been more relevant.
Ayurveda and Yoga are both built on the foundation of the three gunas – sattva, rajas and tamas. These concepts represent the qualities that are present in food, nature, actions, as well as our bodies and minds. Knowing the qualities of things in and around us helps us make more informed decisions about how we live our lives.
Tamas is inertia, darkness and death. This is the heavy energy that comes with leftovers, meat, barbeque and deep-fried foods. It also is associated with sleeping too much or being a “couch potato.” Too much tamas results in lethargy, lack of purpose and depression.
Rajas is activity and movement leading to disturbance. This looks like stimulation, stress and overexcitement. Too much rajas can imbalance the circulatory and nervous systems, leading to anxiety, trouble sleeping and indulgence. Excess eventually leads to tamas.
Sattva is balance and harmony. This looks like lightness and grounding, peace in the body and mind. This comes from a connection to nature and the divinity inside us.
When people come to Ayurveda looking to change the way they feel, they often gravitate to understanding their dosha, or body constitution, as a way to grasp what they should eat and what they should avoid. This can often lead to a feeling of limitation, as if Ayurveda is another exercise in counting calories. This is why, when my clients ask about how they should change their diet, I talk instead about changing the direction of their lives toward sattva.
Adopting a primarily sattvic diet that addresses imbalances in your constitution can make a profound difference in your life. Sattvic foods like basmati rice, adzuki beans, pumpkins, kale and cucumbers bring about a vibrant feeling in the body and mind, while keeping you grounded on the earth. Since true health arises from your body’s ability to digest what you take in, sattvic foods, which are all easily digested, bring you closer to your natural state of true health.
As people adopt a sattvic diet, their desire to engage in rajasic or tamasic activities often fades away with little effort. Those who might otherwise spend their time training for a marathon (rajas), or binge watching the latest television drama (tamas), find that they now prefer to take a walk in the evening moonlight. As their minds are freed from overstimulation or dullness, meditation becomes easier, bringing about a deeper connection to the infinite possibilities in life.
It’s amazing how a shift in diet can shift our perspective. Food is medicine.
Sattvic foods are plentiful (I’ve posted a partial list on my website, HalePule.com). When you have a breakfast of bananas and mangoes or a lunch of mung beans, barley, asparagus and zucchini, you’re getting a plate full of harmony. The result: Clear mind, healthy body, enhanced spiritual connection and the balance you were meant to enjoy.