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How to Cultivate Sattva

Why do monks seem to give off good vibes? There is an unmistakable purity about them that we cannot quite explain. That purity is described in Ayurveda as Sattva. And you can have it too!

Ayurveda talks about three subtle qualities, or gunas, in nature—rajas, tamas and sattva. Rajas is the quality of restlessness, distraction and activity; tamas the quality of dullness, lethargy and slowness; and sattva the quality of purity, brilliance, and awareness. 

According to Samkhya philosophy, of which the yogic sciences are a part, matter is composed of these three gunas and different gunas dominate at various times of the day, seasons, and years. Someone who is very rajasic can be a workaholic, ambitious, and may take to a fast-paced lifestyle. A highly tamasic person is likely to be slow at work, lazy, and prone to depression. A sattvic person is likely to be very alert, wise, light in their head and heart, and brilliant in their appearance and behavior. 

And here’s the secret—when the sattva guna is high in a person or atmosphere, work can be accomplished more successfully, more luck appears in your life, your awareness is heightened, intuition is sharper, and you are totally aligned with nature. A sattvic state is our natural state of body and mind when our lifestyles remain unaffected by the influences in the environment. And so, though every guna has a role to play in our daily life (for example, you need some amount of tamas guna to be able to sleep), it is ideal to lead a more sattvic life, which gives us high energy, clear mind, fully blossomed heart, vitality, health and a lightness of being.

If you wish for a life that is more peaceful, sattvic, high-vibe, there are simple ways and habits you can cultivate. Interestingly, when you aim to live sattvic life, you also ensure that the doshas are balanced. Any imbalances in the dosha constitution will lead to an imbalance in the gunas too. 

How can you cultivate sattva?

Some signs of high sattva include centeredness, peaceful mind, high energy, more awareness, and doshas in state of balance. 

1. Early to bed, early to rise. Biologically, humans were wired to rise and sleep in accordance with the sun’s movement. Sattva is highest in the mornings and waking up early helps you get some of it into your system. Especially waking up during Brahma Muhurta—90 minutes before sunrise—can help you go deeper in your spiritual activities. Avoid staying up or working during midnight, since the tamas is naturally high during those hours and that helps you sleep. Staying up in those hours will increase the rajas guna, making you restless and mentally active, which may make it harder for you to sleep. 

2. Eat well to live well. We need some quantity of rajasic and tamasic foods in our diet for grounding, but our diet should ideally boast of sattvic foods which are light on the stomach, fresh and nutritious.

Sattvic foods include

  • Locally grown, organic and fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Nuts and whole grains
  • Clarified butter or ghee, yogurt, whole milk
  • Pulses, legumes
  • Natural sweeteners like honey or jaggery
  • Locally sourced spices and herbs used according to the seasons and dominant doshas. 

If you want to follow a strict sattvic diet, you should avoid

  • Salty and sour foods
  • Tea & coffee
  • Alcohol
  • Onions and garlic
  • Frozen food
  • Fast food
  • Microwaved foods
  • Processed foods
  • Meat, fish, & eggs
  • Leftovers or previously prepared food.

3. Exercise with awareness. Moving the body through postures, stillness, and awareness in yoga can be an incredibly powerful way of boosting sattva every day. Those with high pitta and vata dosha and have more rajasic tendencies, should practice gentler forms; and people with kapha dominance, with more tamas, can go for more intense and vigorous forms of yoga asanas. You can also choose to engage in outdoor activities once or twice a week. 

4. Get good quality moderate sleep. It is during your sleep that the body undergoes the repair work and purges toxins, while the mind finds deep rest. Neither deprivation nor oversleeping can help you maintain sattva. You need about eight hours of uninterrupted sleep to feel fresh and energized. Sleep is also the time when we process regressed impressions and desires in the form of dream experiences. The ideal sleep routine would be to hit the sack by 10:00 pm and wake up before sunrise. If you are dealing with sleep issues, avoid exposure to digital screens at least three hours before going to sleep; pull the curtains and darken the room; have a warm foot massage; and try meditation for about 10 minutes before going settling into bed.

5. Maintain a good work-life balance. To have more sattva, it is important to live a life of balance. Being obsessed with work is a sign of excessive rajas guna, which doesn’t let you rest and can eventually lead to burnout. Also, not working at all or lack of discipline can lead to more tamas, which need to be controlled as well. And even in your leisure time, pay attention to what you are consuming—meaning not just the food on your plate, but also the information through media and social media, the films, music, books you read. These all have an influence on your sattva levels. Overindulgence can disturb your sattva, but occasionally making room for it can also be part of achieving overall balance and sattva. 

6. Be mindful of sensory experiences. We experience the world through our five senses. But, a mind that is constantly engaged in sensory experiences can quickly begin to lose sattva. If the feed you receive from these senses is positive, calming, and uplifting, it can support sattva. But if your senses are being bombarded with aggression, violence, or overstimulation, then rajas and tamas gunas get activated.

You can choose between heavy rock metal music blaring in your ears all day or calming chants or flute music to begin your day on a relaxed note. You can choose to fill up on heavy spicey meals ,or you can eat balanced, light meals in moderate portions. So, the choice of what we feed our senses and how much lies with us. Similarly, gossiping and talking about others or being negative and unkind can drain your sattva significantly and increase rajas and tamas.

7. Spend time in nature.  Research shows that spending time in nature can increase the release of happy and feel good hormones. When you are happy, your sattva is likely to be high too. Being in nature calms you down and gives you a sense of renewal. Spending time near water or hiking can also both increase sattva. 

8. Meditate. The simplest and most ancient tool for spiritual enrichment and sattva, meditation opens you up to receive more grace and sattva in life. It helps you connect with your higher self and make sense of events, thoughts and circumstances in your life. You come out of meditation feeling pure and joyous.

9. Cleanliness at home. It is said that the cleanliness and purity in your environment influences the purity and sattva in your mind. So make sure your home is clean, it has a pleasant smell, and there is no clutter. 

Want to know how to get even more sattva in life? The answer lies in what Ayurveda calls the dinacharya, or ideal routine in accordance with your dosha constitution. Check it out here!


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