The Gunas and the Yogic Diet



Contributing Blogger:  Monica Sackandy, Owner and Director of Little Yoga LLC Ellington CT 

The Gunas and the Yogic Diet

Confession: I am a total nerd when it comes to any information on nutrition and how it affects the human body.  I occasionally find myself blabbering on a topic to some unfortunate soul as I watch their eyes begin to glaze over, and have to remind myself…not everyone is interested in this stuff!  But I am personally a firm believer that we literally ARE what we eat, at a cellular and energetic level! Hippocrates was a genius when he said, “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.”

Many of you who are certified yoga instructors may remember a brief overview of the Gunas in your training programs, or perhaps you were lucky enough to really delve into it. However, for those of you who are new to this term, the Gunas are basically 3 different types of energies associated with the foods we eat. In yogic philosophy everything is energy, including our food. It is believed that these energies affect how we act and feel as well as our general long term health and well being. Here is a brief synopsis:

The 3 Gunas:

Rajasic-  Foods with this energy are highly stimulating, enrage emotions and desires, and can create hyperactivity, passion, and movement. The color associated with this energy is red. Examples of some Rajasic foods:  fish, salt, eggs, coffee, tea, and spices. Moderate consumption is advised.

Sattwic-  Foods with this energy are mellow, bland, light, and pure.  Consuming these foods promotes feelings of health, happiness, love, peace, and harmony. The color associated with this energy is white. Examples of some Sattwic foods:  fresh raw fruits and vegetables, whole unprocessed grains, nuts, and some dairy. Making most of your food choices Sattwic is recommended.

Thamasic- Thamasic foods have an energy that is heavy, old, dull, and dark.  These types of foods promote disease, induce sloth and “sleep falsehood”, and can promote feelings of anger and hate. The color associated with this energy is black. Examples of some Thamasic foods: meat, leftovers (ie; foods prepared longer than 3 hours prior to eating them), alcohol, and drugs.  Avoid Thamasic foods for optimal health.

Many aspects of a Guna based diet are also in line with the yogic principle of Ahimsa, or non-harming. This principle is the reason many yogis choose to adopt a vegetarian or vegan diet, desiring to consume foods that are plant based and where no harm was inflicted upon animals for human consumption.

So what do we do with this information? Well, as I believe moderation is key. Personally I am not yet a complete vegan (or even vegetarian for that matter to be honest), but am currently aspiring to make more and more of my choices based on raw plant based foods. This is simply based on the way I feel after eating more “Sattwic” foods. But I admit to occasionally eating chicken and fish (striving for wild caught fish and free range organically raised chicken).  I personally have omitted red meat for the past 16 years, but have no judgments about those who chose otherwise.

Listen to your body, see what works for you, and if you can, slowly try adding more raw plant based foods until about 51% or more of your diet is comprised of them. Don’t beat yourself up if you eat a really good steak once in a while and are a yogi…I know plenty of amazing, kind, wonderful human beings who practice yoga and meditation and still eat some non-vegan foods from time to time.

There are also some amazing and highly effective yoga poses for releasing toxins and promoting digestive health. Some of my personal favorites are twists and forward folds. Twisted Chair not only firms the glutes and wrings out the spine, but it also compresses the abdominal contents promoting peristaltic movement. Being 5 months pregnant, I miss this pose!!! Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Fold) is another great one, as well as Uttanasana (Standing Forward Fold). If you have a sluggish digestive system, try adding some Sattwic foods combined with some of these poses to your routine. Holding them for a little longer (5 to 6 full breaths at least) is most beneficial.


COOL PRODUCT ALERT! If you are having trouble getting more raw fruits and veggies in, you may want to try juicing or some form thereof. I just got myself the Nutribullet and I am obsessed! It doesn’t juice, but rather “pulverizes” food to a complete liquid making for easy absorption by your digestive system and cells. The foods are literally nearly “predigested” and the “good stuff” goes right into your blood stream and cells. Today for breakfast I had a serving of kale, 2 oranges, an avocado, and some banana in one drink that took me seconds to make and not very long to consume. I add some organic powdered chia, maca, cacao, and goji for a boost…yum!! This machine has helped me up my raw intake tenfold. My 4 year old daughter even likes them and actually requests things like “strawberry banana and spinach”. Here she is pictured drinking a peach berry banana and kale Nutriblast. I love the green mustache…Got Kale?

COOL BOOK ALERT! If you are fascinated by this stuff, you might want to read “Food Energetics” by Steve Gagne. He talks about the subtle energies in virtually every possible food on the planet and how we are affected when eating those foods. He even delves into how cooking things in a variety of different ways changes that energy. So interesting!!

Happy eating, yogis! Remember one thing when considering all of this, ENJOY your food. Take pleasure in eating it (whatever it may be), mindfully acknowledging the flavors and textures and knowing it is nurturing you. Namaste (:

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