Everything in the universe can be described by their attributes which in Ayurveda are called “gunas”. In Ayurveda we use many gunas but there are 20 major ones (10 sets of opposites) that help describe the majority of matter.
Major Gunas in Ayurveda:
– Heavy (Guru) or Light (Laghu)
– Slow/Dull (Manda) or Sharp (Tīkshna)
– Cold (Shīta) or Hot (Ushna)
– Oily or Unctuous (Snigdha) or Dry (Rūksha)
– Slimy/Smooth (Shlakshna) or Rough (Khāra)
– Dense (Sandra) or Liquid (Drava)
– Hard (Kāthinya) or Soft (Mrudu)
– Mobile (Chala) or Static (Sthira)
– Gross (Sthūla) or Subtle (Sūkshma)
– Clear (Vishada) or Sticky (Picchila) or Cloudy (Ᾱvila)
Sometimes it it easier to understand this theory if we look at it in reference to something. So let’s look at them in terms of the doshas. For instance, Vāta can be described as dry (rūksha), light (laghu), rough (khāra), cold (shita), hard (kāthinya), subtle (sūkṣma), mobile (chala), and clear (vishada). Pitta has the attributes of oily (snigdha), hot (uṣṇa), light (laghu), liquid (drava), sharp (tikṣṇa), spreading (saram), and fleshy smelling (visram). Kapha has qualities that are oily (snigdha), cold (shīta), heavy (guru), smooth (ślakṣṇa), slow (manda), stable (sthira), slimy (picchila) and soft (mṛdu).
Why is it important to understand qualities of matter?
Ayurveda believes that “like increases like” and “opposites balance”. Understanding that simple concept will help you keep your doshas balanced. When thinking about staying balanced, there are two major areas to keep in mind: Diet and Lifestyle.
Take for instance a pitta person whose nature is fire:
If she eats hot (uṣṇa) foods, like chili peppers, onions, garlic etc., this may have a tendency to overheat her system. She may develop acid indigestion or worse, acid reflux. It would be much better for her to eat “cooling” foods.
A lifestyle example would be a vata person who often experiences dryness or (rūksha):
If they live in a dry part of the country, says Arizona, their dryness may accumulate causing them to become imbalanced and they may develop dry eyes. However, if they live in an area of the country that has a lot of moisture, says Seattle, they would be less inclined to develop a vata imbalance to the dryness, and therefore not experience dry eyes.
Yes, I know these are two very simplistic examples, however, once you practice looking at life through the gunas, you will begin to make better choices. Try this week to assign gunas to foods that you eat and activities that you do. It is a fun thing to play with and you will be amazed at how quickly you start noticing how some of your choices either balance your life or tend to throw you out of balance.