We know the constitutions of the mind and body: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, but there is more. In addition to our mind-body constitutions, we have emotional constitutions as well. Our psychological constitutions are mental and emotional traits characterized under the three names: Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas. Similar to the mind-body constitutions (Doshas), it is desirable to keep our physiological constitutions in equilibrium. As an extension of the doshas, we all have all three physiological constitutions within us: Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas. The states are malleable and we are vulnerable to fluctuating psychological states in accordance with our ever changing situations, relationships, food, and lifestyle choices.
The Three Physiological Constitutions
Rajas is the energy that wakes us up in the morning. It is a sprightly and motivated energy that initiates movement. Too many rajas can lead to a climate of overwork, hyper movements, rapid-fire thoughts, competition, and judgment. This sounds similar to pitta dosha, which is why pittas have a proclivity to have excess rajas or to be more rajastic.
Tamas is the opposite. Tamas is the energy that puts us to sleep at night. This energy is heavy, dull, and slow. We need this energy to relax and unwind, but too much tamas can lead to inertia and even depression. The qualities of tamas are similar to some kapha qualities, which is why kaphas can easily become tamasic.
The desirable place in the middle of the opposite ends of the energetic spectrum is called Sattva. Purity, truth, and contentment live within sattva. Cultivating sattva helps us to manage stress and feel calm. When we are sattvic, we move through our days with creativity, inspiration, and serenity. Because we feel so peaceful, sattva gives us a buffer to impending stresses and distractions throughout the day.
There are multiple ways to cultivate this truthful, pure, and content state. Nature is a wonderful way to promote sattva, therefore, eating natural food intrinsically promotes sattva.
Impact Of Food On Our Physiological Constitutions
Eating sattvic foods is a way to insert balance into your life three times a day. Sattvic foods are whole foods, seasonal fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, ghee, and honey. Processed foods that have been refined, fortified, spritzed with pesticides, injected with antibiotics, saturated in chemicals, or altered in factories are not sattvic. 90% of the food on our grocery store shelves are not sattvic. The lessons we have already integrated can be superimposed here. Buying organic, shopping at farmers markets, choosing items from the parameters of the market, or growing your own food will help ensure that your food is fresh and sattvic in nature. The way a food is prepared is important. Food should not be cooked or eaten in a hurry, while angry, mindlessly, or without gratitude, because the heartbeat of sattva is patient, joyous, mindful, and grateful. As we now appreciate, we are not only what we eat but also how we eat. Eating slowly in a peaceful environment will increase sattva.
Prana and Sattva go hand-in-hand. Their relationship is symbiotic. Whole foods are full of prana and remind us of our sattvic nature. Stimulating substances like coffee, caffeine, alcohol, citrus juices, garlic, onions, and hot peppers increase rajas. These foods can make us aggressive, irritable, and competitive. They are incredibly acidic and hot. Over indulgence in heating/acidic/stimulating foods will make us feel like we have been in a hot tub too long. We will feel irritable and itchy to get out. If we can not get out, we can become frustrated and aggressive. So, avoid an over consumption of rajastic foods because they move us away from sattva.
On the other side, too many heavy foods like dairy, sugar, wheat, and meat can make us feel cloudy, dull, and heavy. Dead foods or foods that are left over, stale, processed, microwaved, void of taste, fried, or burnt have a similar effect. These foods have minimal prana, so we will feel lifeless after eating them. Eating too much, too late, or while upset can lead to tamas as well. This would be like sitting in a mud bath for too long. Eventually, we would just feel heavy and stuck – unable to move. To avoid feeling tamasic, avoid processed/nuked/heavy/dead foods.
Sattvic foods are not extreme in tastes, therefore, we can bypass extreme emotions or mood swings by eating sattvic foods. By becoming sattvic, we – seamlessly – bend towards balancing our doshas and aligning our 5 elements. This is because whole foods tend to carry the correct combinations of elements and are not extreme in taste. Each of the six tastes spurs a mental implication. For example, sweet will illicit devotion but greed in excess. Sour creates desire but too much leads to envy. Salty taste adds a zest to life, but too much could propel hedonism. Pungent taste is stimulating but causes anger in excess. Bitter helps us face reality but leads to feeling chronically dissatisfied if consumed in excess. And astringent taste helps us tap into introspection, but can lead to loneliness and anxiety in excess.
By having a little of each taste in each meal, not only will our physical bodies feel nourished, but our hearts and minds reap the reward as well. Extreme tastes like really spicy (hot sauce) or super sweet (candy) are not sattvic. Whereas, the dish – “khichri”, for example, is perfectly sattvic. Khichri is one of Ayurveda’s premier balancing foods because the rice is sweet, the beans are astringent, the turmeric is bitter, a pinch of salt is salty, a pinch of pepper is pungent, and the post-digestive effect is sour – rounding us out with all six tastes. To eat a balanced meal in a peaceful environment in the company of good friends will surely promote your most pleasant mental disposition, sattva.
- Whole foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, ghee, whole grains, and honey encourage the peaceful, clear, and joyful psychological state known as Sattva.
- Spicy, acidic, and stimulating foods and beverages such as caffeine, coffee, garlic, onions, red meat, chili powder, and alcohol promote an aggressive and intense psychological state known as Rajas.
- Heavy, dull, fast, stale, overly processed foods such as macaroni and cheese, bread, fast food, and vending machine items lead to a lazy and negative disposition known as Tamas.
- To achieve the desired state of Sattva, eat prana-rich (nutrient-rich foods) and try khichri.