The Gunas Chart

A cheat sheet to the gunas: the three essential aspects of nature.

May 6, 2013    BY Rolf Sovik

The yoga tradition tells us that prakriti is an intermingling of three entities, or gunas, that are constantly shifting in relation and proportion to one another. They have differing qualities, and their activities either conceal or reveal the presence of purusha, which is the observer of their movements.








Key Features


light, upward moving, pure, transparent, inspiring, warm


active, moving, agitated, restless, throbbing


dark, heavy, inert, downward-moving, opaque



clear, content, inspired to spiritual pursuits, concentrated, accepting


flooded with thoughts, excited, hyperactive, nervous, wordly


unclear, heavy with depression, hopeless, no inspiration, dull



faith, devotion, peace, humility, contentment, cheerfulness, detachment, yearning for liberation, love


desire, anger, greed, hypocrisy, arrogance, jealousy, egoism, envy, ambition, competitiveness, expectation


sadness, lack of enthusiasm, stubbornness, clinging, apathy, hopeless, dejection



light, joyful, supple


energetic but restless


dull, heavy, listless



energetic, light, and composed


unsteady, too active


heavy, stiff, immobile



light, fresh, easily digested, neither under- or overcooked, calming


strong taste, heavily spiced, pungent, overly salted, disturbs sleep, causes dreams


stale, heavy, full of additives/preservatives, overly sweet, induces sleep, overcooked

Attached to


knowledge and happiness




negligence, sloth, and sleep



without desire for fruit according to scriptures, faith in duty, happy


seeking fruit, hypocritical, ostentatious, anxious/stressed


with foolish obstinacy, fails to observe scriptures or right practice, without faith



clean, fresh, quiet, peaceful, harmonious, cooperative, green, uncongested


conflicted energies, exciting, busy, plays music constantly, argumentative


dull, dark, stale, unclean, congested with old ideas, depressing, slothful



knows virtue


unclear virtue/vice


obscured thinking

Rolf Sovik
President and Spiritual Director of the Himalayan Institute and a clinical psychologist in private practice, Rolf Sovik has studied yoga in the United States, India, and Nepal. He holds degrees in philosophy, music, Eastern studies, and clinical psychology. Former Co-Director of the Himalayan Institute of Buffalo, NY he began his practice of yoga in 1972, and was initiated as a pandit in the Himalayan tradition in 1987. He is the author of Moving Inward, co-author of the award-winning Yoga:... Read more>>


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