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In yoga philosophy, all living things center around three primary gunas or basic qualities of nature—energy, matter, and consciousness. Every experience we have is made up of these three gunas in different proportions, and they’re forever in flux. The first guna, tamas, is the quality that makes you stop and rest, while sattva helps you obtain clarity and wisdom. So what is rajas, the third guna? Rajas is the quality of energy, activity, and passion. Rajas is what gets you going in the morning and helps you achieve your goals. On the mat you can often feel the presence of all three gunas, but rajas tends to be the most present—it is the energy that moves you from pose to pose.
Here’s everything you need to know about what rajas is and how to keep it in balance.
What is rajas?
Rajas is a state of energy, change, action, and movement. In nature, rajas allows flowers to bloom and grow and new life to be born. It is also the energy of change, unbridled enthusiasm, passion, and the self-conﬁdence to get stuﬀ done.
Our day-to-day energy and actions are typically influenced by those around us (think: coworkers, family members, partners, etc.). When you become agitated by these relationships, rajas can become dominant. An overabundance of rajas is often expressed in anger, euphoria, anxiety, fear, irritation, worry, restlessness, stress, courage, emotional upset, and chaos.
What is rajas in your meditation practice? Sometimes, having excess rajas can make meditation difficult, leading you to overplay situations, create to-do lists, and replay conversations so that you struggle to quiet your mind.
Signs that rajas has become dominant
Rajas energy is future-directed and often manifests as longing, yearning, or sorrow. When rajas is dominant, you may have desires that only result in temporary and short-term happiness, such as eating a bowl of ice cream or gambling. Excess rajas distorts your mind with attachments and obsessions, making it challenging to reach a more harmonious sattvic state.
See also: 6 Sattva-Boosting Tips
Ways to reduce rajas
Fortunately, rajas can be reduced or balanced to cultivate a state of sattva through some simple changes to your yoga practice, meditation, lifestyle, and diet. Here are some ways you can reduce rajas:
- Practice restorative yoga
Restorative poses are the best mechanism for calming rajas. When you feel rajasic energy dominating, minimize vinyasa and Sun Salutation-type sequences. Instead practice restorative poses such as Child’s Pose, Legs-up the-Wall Pose, or Happy Baby Pose, holding each posture for 2–3 minutes. Forward folds and side bends poses can also be soothing and relaxing. While upper back-bending poses (such as Sphinx Pose or Camel Pose) can also be helpful to open the heart area to reduce anxiety.
- Meditation and pranayama
Just 10–15 minutes a day of calming pranayama can help clear out rajas’ agitating energy. Try soothing practices such as an inner peace meditation or a heart chakra meditation. If you feel a bit distracted by outside noise or stimulation, practice several minutes of Ujjayi, or ocean-sounding breath, to cultivate a sense of tranquility and presence.
If your mind is incredibly active and tends toward excessive thinking, try mantra meditation. Have extreme anger and bitterness in your heart? Practice metta meditation to cultivate kindness for yourself and all beings everywhere.
- Improve your diet
To balance rajas, avoid eating quickly or on the go. Instead, sit down for meals, take a moment to feel grateful for the food in front of you, and eat it slowly.
Minimize fish and eggs, and eat plenty of dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, arugula, collards, and romaine lettuce. If you’re feeling hot-headed, consuming watermelon, mint, cucumber, and seaweeds will be incredibly cooling. Always do your best to avoid caffeine, chocolate, and sugar.
- Create soothing energy
Violent and aggressive sounds or visuals are rajasic. They increase anxiety, aggression, and nervousness. So swap crime dramas and your energetic pop playlist for nature documentaries, calming tunes, or a relaxing read.
- Get enough z’s
Lack of sleep can make us irritable, while excess sleep makes us sluggish. The solution: Get 7–9 hours of quality sleep each night (and take naps as needed!) so your body and mind can eventually reduce rajasic properties.
Balance rajas to gain stability
Yoga master B. K. S. Iyengar said that stability is something we can practice and master. The path to cultivating a sense of stability is through balance, which he defines as present in the here and now. “Being present in the here and now transcends needing to be in a particular state or mood to make that happen. You can be present feeling tamasic, rajasic, and sattvic.”
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