Ayurvedic tradition holds that there exist three gunas, or universal energies, that circulate through all matter and all beings. Each individual possesses his or her own unique proportion of the three gunas. Like doshas, gunas are subject to disturbance as a result of poor diet and lifestyle habits. In order to live a Sattvic lifestyle, or a healthy, wholesome life, one must work to balance the three gunas.
Unlike the doshas, though, there are some gunas that are considered more positive than others. While Sattva is inherently good, and its indefinite increase poses no danger, an excess of Rajas or Tamas is detrimental to physical and psychological health. It is therefore most beneficial to life a Sattvic lifestyle.
To understand why, we must first explore the properties of each of the three gunas: Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas.
The energy of Sattva embodies the principle of creation. Sattva is wise, noble, grateful, joyous, and generous in character. A Sattvic state of mind indicates emotional and intellectual equilibrium and positive thinking. Sattvic action is that which perpetuates good in the world, generating positive energy and healing others. To be of service of others is to act with Sattvic intention.
Sattva is a sacred, divine energy. To increase your Sattvic energy and live a Sattvic lifestyle is to become more enlightened to your place in the universe, to your role as part of a larger whole with its own beautiful intention. Becoming Sattvic means becoming clear and unfettered, accepting of pain and the lessons it carries. A Sattvic person is open to and trusting of the world because he or she does not allow external negativity to govern his or her internal space.
The energy of Rajas embodies the principle of preservation. Rajas is not an inherently negative energy. Indeed, Rajas governs motivation and action, activity and change. Without Rajas, we would not have the passion and drive to fulfill our personal mission in the world and work for positive change.
However, Rajas has a dark side, and is physically and psychologically distressing in excess. Rajas ignites the power of the ego. When Rajasic energy becomes excessive, an individual becomes egoistic and selfish. No longer driven by the drive to create positive change, a Rajasic individual acts for the sake of prestige and power. Thus, a Rajasic individual is inclined to dominate, control, and even abuse others.
Rajasic individuals can also be hedonistic, excessively indulging the senses in unconstructive pleasures. Rajas fosters attachment to control. When we feel angry or distressed about a situation we cannot control, we know that our Rajas has become too powerful. This type of anger indicates a selfish egocentricity paired with a lack of trust in the natural order of things. Restlessness and impulsivity, too, suggest that your Rajas has become too strong.
Excessive Rajas tends to disproportionately afflict vata and pitta types; vata is prone to anxiety and egoistic distress, and pitta is more likely to suffer from rage and impulsivity.
Tamas embodies the principle of destruction. Despite its underlying principle, Tamas is not inherently negative. We require all three gunas for health and happiness. Tamas is the energy that encourages us to slow down and rest when we are overworked, or to absolve or abandon that which no longer serves us.
But an excess of Tamas, like Rajas, will inevitably disturb the body and mind. Tamas is associated with darkness, breakdown, dullness, and closure. Tamasic individuals are sometimes obstinate, hateful, and even violent. Conversely, Tamas can also induce laziness, slowness, fatigue, and confusion. Individuals that suffer from excessive Tamas tend to be depressed, ignorant, fearful, and melancholic.
Unlike excessive Rajas, which tends to afflict vata and pitta types, excessive Tamas tends to plague kapha types. Tamasic individuals are slow and lethargic, lacking the motivation to care for themselves and fulfill their purpose in the world. Oftentimes individuals become too Tamasic because they are dwelling on a fear or trauma that is stunting their growth.
Becoming More Sattvic
It is important to maintain sufficient levels of both Rajas, to stay motivated, and Tamas, to be able to rest. But either of these gunas in excess will produce profound psychological distress that often manifests in the physical body. Sattva, however, is incredibly healthy in abundance. Focusing on increasing your Sattva will actually help you balance both Rajas and Tamas for a happier, healthier life.
Per the stipulations of Ayurveda, diet and lifestyle are the most powerful forms of medicine. Thus, increasing your Sattva and balancing your Rajas and Tamas requires dietary and lifestyle adjustments. Today we explore a few of the adjustments you can make to increase your Sattva and improve your quality of life.
Eat Whole Foods
In true Ayurvedic fashion, we recommend a diet of whole foods to increase Sattvic energy. Because Sattva is non-violent, eating to boost Sattva requires adopting a vegetarian diet. A Sattvic meal plan should be rich in whole, organic, local foods. Fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and healthy fats are integral to a holistic Sattvic diet. Ghee, in particularly, is incredibly nourishing and Sattvic. Though a Sattvic diet does encourage the consumption of local dairy products and natural sweeteners, it does not include any refined sweeteners or animal products.
What you omit from your Sattvic diet is just as essential as what you include. Meat, stimulants, and foods that are fried, spicy, or fermented can aggravate Rajas, causing restlessness and irritability. Alcohol, sugar, processed food, fatty meats and cheeses, and food additives trigger excessive Tamas, causing depression and lethargy. Omitting these foods and including Sattvic ones will help you balance your gunas for a happy mind and harmonic Sattvic lifestyle.
Embrace Positive Relationships
Many of us turn to food and exercise to improve our health without considering the impact that our social relationships can have on our minds and bodies. Fostering healthy relationships is a critical element of leading a Sattvic life and, by extension, pursuing good health.
To lead a Sattvic life, surround yourself with positive people who increase your self-esteem and support your life’s purpose. Truth, kindness, and mutual support should serve as the foundational elements of all of your relationships. These relationships will foster empathy and passion in your life, provided you practice good listening. You should live in a community that gives to the world with love and generosity, inspiring you to do the same.
Don’t be afraid to sever ties with people who are negative and angry, or who make you feel worthless. Individuals that trample your speech, denigrate your ideas, and lack empathy for others are not worth sacrificing your physical and mental health for. Every single one of your relationships should energize you. If you are maintaining a relationship that is sapping your energy, it may be time to walk away from it.
Balance Sensory Input
To say you must control your sensory input in order to lead a Sattvic life may seem complicated and rash. Indeed, we are constantly inundated with thousands of types of sensory input throughout the day. Further, we often have very little control over what we are exposed to.
Becoming Sattvic doesn’t necessarily require rigidity. In fact, that impulse to control is far more Rajasic than Sattvic. But there are a few simple steps you can take to ensure that you are blocking out negative stimuli.
Sattvic stimuli are balanced. They are not uproarious nor silent, bright or dull, over-stimulating or energetically oppressive. Choosing stimuli conducive to a Sattvic lifestyle may include: choosing a walk in nature over a violent movie; listening to peaceful music instead of heavy rock; clearing your house of mess and clutter and adopting a bright and minimalistic style; and choosing natural lighting and essential oils over heavy perfumes and fluorescent lights.
Align Your Body With Nature
Ayurvedic philosophy dictates that we align our actions with our bodies’ natural rhythms. Doing so requires rising with the sun and going to bed around 10pm, thereby restoring our natural circadian rhythm. Because our digestive fire is strongest midday, bodily alignment also entails consuming the largest meal at lunchtime and choosing a lighter breakfast and dinner.
Having a consistent daily routine is an integral facet of a Sattvic lifestyle. Try to wake and consume your meals at the same time everyday. Adopt a regular exercise routine and commit to practicing it at the same time everyday. Establish a consistent morning routine, be it breakfast and tea, a morning workout, or both. Consistency is more important than content when it comes to routine. And adopting a daily routine is particularly important for vatas, who typically suffer from excess Rajas.
Becoming Sattvic does not mean eliminating Rajas and Tamas. To do so would again warrant a level of fixation and control that, ironically, is characteristic of Rajas and Tamas. Sattva instead demands acceptance. Thus, becoming Sattvic requires accepting your darker Rajasic and Tamasic sides and trying to balance them instead of fighting, oppressing, or ignoring them. It’s not that Sattvic individuals don’t have a dark side, or trauma, or pain; rather, Sattvic individuals accept their pain without allowing it to define them; they extract the lessons from painful situations without attaching to the pain itself.
One of the best ways to begin practicing acceptance is through a regular practice of yoga, meditation, and pranayama. These three practices together align body, mind, and soul in elemental harmony. They foster healthy detachment, peace of mind, and, by extension, acceptance.
At Bodhidevi, we choose to honor nature’s beautiful rhythms by aligning our bodies, minds, and actions with them in true Ayurvedic fashion. One of the most essential methods is to embrace the emotions characteristic of each phase of the lunar cycle. Thus, during this past Hawaii full moon—also a Super Blood Wolf Moon—we allowed energy, conflict, and change to guide us on the journey that is living.
During the New Moon, we host our New Moon Sister Circle. The Sister Circle allows women to turn inward, to process and rejuvenate together. Soon we will be debuting a dinner and ecstatic dance event to celebrate the spiritual energy of the full moon.
In this week’s post we explore the symbolism of the full moon, including this month’s Super Blood Wolf Moon. Wondering how and why to attune your own life to the lunar cycle? Read on!
The Moon, Symbolism, and Human Emotion
We associate the moon with a myriad of symbolic meanings deriving from different origins and cultures. Broadly speaking, the moon is said to influence fluids, our minds, and our dreams. It symbolizes and influences our deepest emotions and our internal landscape.
Because the moon both represents and influences our internal space, it is powerfully connected to several elements of our lives. Our pasts, our spirituality, our dark secrets and moods, our sends of mysticism, our deepest feelings: all will all reflect the state of the moon.
The moon is a particularly powerful symbol for women. It is a physical manifestation of the sacred feminine, the opposite of our masculine sun. Perhaps the connection between the lunar cycle and women’s emotions derives from ancestral inclinations. Long ago, before modern living began to disturb our elemental circadian rhythms, women’s cycles would typically sync with the lunar cycle. Women menstruated during the new moon, a time of rejuvenation and rest. They ovulated during the full moon, a time to embrace the external self through energetic, creative expression. Indeed, we observe higher conception rates during the Hawaii full moon even today!
At Bodhidevi, we observe that the state of the moon can impact the state of human emotion, particularly for women. We believe it is healthy to practice self-expression and self care in accordance with the phase of the moon and the emotions that it invokes. Indeed, our mindfulness of the state of the moon aligns with one of the core principles of Ayurveda: to align oneself with the rhythms of nature.
The Meaning of the Full Moon
Your relationship with yourself and your emotions will naturally change in accordance with the progressing lunar cycle. The effect may be particularly intense if you are highly aligned or energetically sensitive. The new moon is a time of rest, regeneration, re-evaluation, and new beginnings.
The opposite of the new moon in the context of the lunar cycle, the full moon is an exuberant time. The full moon calls us to experience our external selves in much the same way the new moon calls us to observe our internal self. The Hawaii full moon is thus a natural time for emotional release and creative expression. During the full moon, you may feel inclined to cast off old binds and restraints; to harness your swelling energy to overcome obstinate challenges; and to leverage the peak of your emotional instincts to abandon negative habits, situations, or relationships.
The full moon is an exuberant time, an energetic peak. Ayurvedic philosophy holds that the Hawaii full moon will heighten Shakti prana, our empowered, elemental, cosmic, feminine energy. This increase in spiritual energy will powerfully impact all aspects of a woman’s internal and external health. It is a powerful emotional and physical energy that compels alignment of the spirit, body, and mind.
Furthermore, the full moon represents a balancing of lunar and solar energy, an equalization of yin and yang. But it also calls the moon and the sun into opposite signs of the zodiac. This polarity can intensify emotions and mental processes. Strong emotional experiences, lucid and memorable dreams, and significant life events are all part of the Hawaii full moon. It is therefore an excellent time for meditation, or for creative expression through art, music, and dance.
Full Moon in Leo
This past Hawaii full moon in Leo was particularly intense! The full moon of January 20th-21st, 2019, was a Super Blood Wolf Moon:
- It was a Super Moon, i.e. when the moon is closer to the earth in orbit and therefore appears larger to the naked eye. Folklore holds that super moons are particularly emotional and intense.
- It was the first moon of the New Year, what the Native Americans refer to as the “wolf moon.”
- It was a blood moon as a result of a rare lunar eclipse. During a lunar eclipse, the earth falls directly in between the sun and the moon. The moon is therefore illuminated not by direct sunlight, but by sunlight that is refracted through the earth’s atmosphere. Eclipses give the moon a gorgeous, red-orange glow.
Super moons always invoke intense emotions. The blood moon only intensified the effects of this full moon. A blood moon can symbolize either bad omens or the path to elevated consciousness. Furthermore, lunar eclipses facilitate mystery, transitions, and even conflict. You can expect a significant, unexpected, and positive transition to come your way during this special time.
This past Hawaii full moon will powerfully impact private life. This phase of the moon catalyzes intense emotional experiences and feelings of instability. However, it will ultimately illuminate your path as you move forward. It will call forth and initiate significant changes in your life that will set you on the path to alignment. This full moon will lend you the clarity and power to remove yourself from non-beneficial situations.
Bone broth: a temporary diet fad or a healing super-food? If you are a health conscious individual who likes to read up on the latest health discoveries and trends, you have probably heard of bone broth. Though bone broth has only recently hit the shelves of your supermarket en-masse, humans have been making bone broth for thousands of years. Our prehistoric ancestors couldn’t afford to discard any part of an animal. Thus, they simmered inedible parts game, like bones, tendons, ligaments, and feet, to extract the nutrients. The result: nourishing, healing, delicious, real bone broth.
Bone broth has become popular as a remedy for a variety of inflammatory and gastrointestinal conditions. Generally, though, there are few people who wouldn’t benefit from adding bone broth into their diets. The Standard American Diet is full of inflammatory and processed grains, meat, and sugar. Thus, many Americans suffer from inflammation or digestive distress of some sort. Regular bone broth consumption can actually reverse the damage inflicted by the Standard American Diet.
Want to learn more about the benefits of real (not store-bought) bone broth and why we offer it at Bodhidevi? Read on!
It is perhaps due to the severe lack of collagen in our diets that Americans are suffering from increasingly severe inflammatory conditions. Without enough collagen to strengthen the digestive tract, undigested food particles enter the bloodstream. The immune system mistakenly identifies these particles as harmful invaders and triggers an inflammatory response. The result: chronic inflammation, digestive distress, and food sensitivities.
Bone broth is rich in collagen and thereby prevents and heals these inflammatory conditions. By strengthening the lining of the digestive tract and healing leaky gut syndrome, bone broth prevents inflammation. By extension, it also treats the various manifestations of inflammation, such as depression, eczema, acne, psoriasis, chronic fatigue, food sensitivities, and more. It promotes healthy digestive function and elimination. Finally, it can work wonders for individuals suffering from severe digestive conditions like IBD and ulcerative colitis.
Collagen also boasts impressive beautifying effects as well. It is largely due to decreasing levels of collagen that aging results in dull, wrinkled skin. The collagen in real bone broth restores lost collagen to reduce wrinkles, improve elasticity, and brighten complexion.
Bone broth contains a variety of amino acids. In fact, the benefit of bone broth fasting over water and juice fasting is that bone broth provides essential amino acids, nourishing the body without removing it from a fasted state.
The amino acids in bone broth derive from a protein called gelatin. Together, collagen and gelatin provide powerful support to the digestive tract and, by extension, reduce inflammation and heal autoimmune conditions.
The primary amino acids in bone broth include proline, arginine, glutamine, and glycine. Of all the amino acids that bone broth contains, glycine is perhaps the most critical. Glycine aids in muscle mass preservation, blood sugar regulation, hormonal balancing, and the secretion of human growth hormone. Generally speaking, glycine prevents the hormonal and blood sugar fluctuations that lead to inflammation. Finally, glycine is a precursor to glutathione, a compound that supports detoxification in the liver.
Together, the amino acids in real bone broth can also reduce anxiety and promote restful sleep. That’s because these amino acids behave like the inhibitory neurotransmitters critical to relaxation and sleep.
Micronutrients and Electrolytes
An additional advantage of bone broth fasting over juice and water fasting is electrolyte and micronutrient content. Bone broth boasts a whole array of essential electrolytes and micronutrients that can reverse malnourishment, including potassium, sodium, and magnesium. These electrolytes and micronutrients also prevent electrolyte imbalance and dehydration, dangerous side effects of fasting. In turn, they can also combat the fatigue that often accompanies a fast.
Other Benefits of Bone Broth
Bone broth contains amino acids that heal the digestive tract, reducing inflammation and thus healing inflammatory conditions. It also contains beneficial micronutrients that nourish the body. But the benefits don’t stop there.
Improving your digestion and nourishing your body can have far-reaching effects. Those who regularly consume bone broth benefit from stronger bones, healthier skin, and shinier hair. They also have stronger immunes systems and heal more quickly from bone, joint, and ligament damage. Finally, bone broth consumption improves insulin sensitivity, preventing energy spikes and crashes.
How To Consume Bone Broth
There are several different ways you can incorporate bone broth into your diet. Some enjoy it straight from the cup, while others will use it as a soup base. If drinking it straight doesn’t appeal to you, you can add spices and herbs that amp up the flavor and healing capacity of your broth.
One of the most beneficial ways to consume bone broth is to engage in a bone broth fast. Real bone broth fasting is not for everyone. Malnourished, pregnant, diabetic, and hypoglycemic individuals should not attempt a fast of any kind. However, bone broth fasting is generally safer and more beneficial than other kinds of fasting.
Bone broth fasts tout all of the same benefits as water or juice fasting: improved metabolism, increased energy, better digestion, enhanced fat loss, and mental clarity. Fasting gives the digestive system a rest, allowing the body to “re-set” and divert energy to other metabolic and detoxifying functions. It also gives the gastrointestinal tract a change to re-balance, starving harmful microbes and feeding beneficial ones. Regular fasting can help regulate hunger hormones and appetite while increasing the metabolic rate. The benefits of fasting are seemingly endless!
Fasting with real bone broth gives you a chance to reap the benefits of fasting while still consuming muscle preserving, nourishing, restoring nutrients and amino acids. Bone broth boasts far more healing properties than juice or water and is therefore a much healthier option for a fast. As always, consult your doctor before attempting a new diet or fasting regimen.