top of page

GUNAS - three

constituents of nature

The universe is divided into purusha, or consciousness, and prakriti, or nature / matter.


Prakriti consists of three qualities — tranquility, activity and inertia — known as gunas. Everything that we see or experience in this world is the combination and recombination of these three gunas. When these universal vibrations are held in equipoise, there is no action, according to the theory. It is only when there is a disturbance of the equilibrium that evolution begins. 


“If you want to find the secret of  the Universe think  in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.“ - Nikola Tesla 


It uses two to start with:


  • RAJAS   



The Indian tradition understands that when tamas and rajas are balanced, it results in a third state called sattva. 




The gunas are always present to some degree in everyone’s life and form our attitude, nature and potential. The unique expression of the gunas within each person gives that person his or her self identity. The gunas describe the natural tendencies of the mind and emotions and can be useful as a tool in analysing and understanding the patterns of our thoughts and emotions with direct application in our practice and teaching of yoga. Rather than judging these tendencies as good or bad we can look up on then for insight into how we feel within ourselves and how we interact with others in our lives.

MIND states

Patañjali says that the human mind is usually in one of five general states: 


Wandering (ksipta)

Forgetful (mūdha)

Occasionally steady or distracted (viksipta)

One-pointed (ekāgra)

Restrained (niruddha)


It is the last two states of mind that are essential for the realisation of the Self. Normally, our minds only experience the first three states. The highest state of mind, according to Patanjali, is the state of samādhi, or perfect understanding. 


Where is your mind? 


                   Now here, now there, now ....... nowhere 

Rebecca shared a sketch with you 13.png

Brain basics: The conscious: The conscious includes what we are thinking about right now, whether it is in the front of our mind or at the back. Apart from when we’re sleeping, day to day, our conscious mind is like a relentless overachiever, roaming around from thought to thought, analysing, criticising, rationalising, figuring things out, calling on memories, worrying, deciding, chattering away.


  • The Desiring Mind (manas) 

  • The Thoughtful Intellect (buddhi) 

  • The Self Focussed Ego (ahamkara)


The desiring mind gets attracted to outside things through the senses ‘I hear.., I smell.. ’ The intellect judges the situation and discriminates ‘its tastes like.. it is, it reminds me of ’ The self focussed mind involves i says ‘I want..I am..’ dreaming up and continually conversing until some form of action is chosen consciously or unconsciously and fulfilled. Thought stimulate actions.


When focussed, our minds may be directed toward the task at hand, they may be “here” as we concentrate on the contents of a class or conversation. Our minds may also be “there,” or any place other than the present situation. When attention becomes disconnected from perception, and our minds wander to times and places removed from the current environment, they may travel to an upcoming holiday (S1:9), a favourite memory (S1:11), an assumption (S1:8) or even a to-do list as the morning class becomes a tedious exercise in endurance. At other times, our minds may go to a third place, neither here nor there, but nowhere (S1.10). There may be times when our minds seem to be blank, when our minds have a complete lack of conscious awareness, an extreme decoupling of perception and attention, where attention fails to bring any stimuli into conscious awareness and our minds and bodies seem to be in different places altogether.


In order for information to enter our conscious awareness, the thought must be attended to. Yoga has the unique ability to cultivate Introspection. The ability to notice what is happening, right now, right here, in our body, and in our mind. This attention, enables us to learn to know ourselves. We can notice what preoccupies our minds. We can listen to our internal chat, start understanding our drives, our expectations and the relationship between our impulses and their origin which offers us the potential means to direct our life. If our attention is to move into a place of clarity, being aware of where our attention and energy are focused, gives insight into what stands in the way of that clarity.


Think first act later. There is a delay between thought and its translation into action which is long enough to make it possible to restrain it, to be aware and examine what is happening within us at the moment when the intention to act is formed as well as when it is carried out. Delaying action, prolonging the period between the intention and its execution, gives us the capacity for judgment, differentiation, generalisation, the capacity for abstract thought and imagination. Through yoga and plenty of practice we can get skilled at this art, obtaining clarity, sattva:


Sattva describes a calm and clear state of mind, a sense of being complete and fulfilled with a sense of levity, clarity and tranquillity. Yoga philosophy describes this as our natural state of mind. We can act in the world with ease because our mental balance is not dependent on something external. This allows us to move about in our lives in harmony with others.


Driven by desire, rajas revolves around the feeling of needing or losing something. If we do not act we fear losing what we feel we need. If successful in attaining whatever is driving our desire, then the mind will return to a balanced sense of calm. Rajas involves a sense of intense dynamism, stimulating you to act in the world with excitement and passion. The mind always imbued with anxiety or expectation about how things might turn out.


Tamas reflects a confused mind that leads to indecision, lethargy and inaction. This is the feeling of not knowing what you are feeling or what you want or need. Caught in this tendency your behaviour can  become self-destructive or harmful to others, yet tamas also allows us to calm down relax and restore our energy to rest and sleep.


The subconscious: On another level, we have a subconscious, unquestioning mind, our autopilot. Countless stimuli streams in and around us. Although the majority of these stimuli never reach our conscious awareness, they are perceived by our subconscious minds, every piece of knowledge, experience, concept, insight, and thought regardless of their nature, gets stored and buried deep in ourselves. 


Our subconscious doesn't think or reason independently, it is subjective, and has no filter. It ensures that we respond exactly the way we are programmed, fitting a pattern consistent with our self-concept which was built over the years. When we were born, we had no idea what what going on, our adults showed us the way through space and time, provided our environment, said yes to the satisfaction of some impulses and said no to others. Our adults hooked our attention and put information into our minds through repetition. That is the way we learned everything we know, everything from the way we speak, move, think, and feel. 


When we figure the best way to behave in a given environment, our brain creates patterns, shortcuts, saving resources for other stuff and to comply with the ancestral biological imperative to preserve life and to escape danger. We can now do all sorts of things without having to think at all, subconsciously avoiding the possibility of pain. 


Even though we are generally unaware, our subconscious exerts great influence on our emotions, opinions, decisions, and behaviours. Learning new techniques or approaches seem pointless so we end up doing the same things, going to the same places and being the same people. The comfort zone can be very comforting, almost like being cradled. It sets limits on who we can really be. Tiring, hoping, falling, making mistakes, learning – these are the side effects of moving ourselves outside the comfort zone. Live a little, loosen up, the path you take, the road you travel, is as important – more important, really – than the results you achieve.


Perhaps we'll never know how far the path can go, how much a human being can truly achieve, until we realise that the ultimate reward is not a gold medal but the path itself. - George Leonard


Yoga is the mastery, of the thoughts of the mind. They are disciplined by practice and non-attachment.

Mind states
bottom of page