top of page

Ayurveda Basics | 20 Gunas

Ayurveda means the science of life. Ayurveda originated in India about 5000 years ago as the sister to Yoga. At the time, yoga was primarily meditation, with asana (the movements) to strengthen and stretch the body, to support it in sitting for more meditation. Ayurveda was everything else…our individual constitutions, diets, healthy habits, etc. More than just what we eat, Ayurveda stresses that we are part of nature and therefore it teaches us to live in rhythm with the day, with the seasons, and within our lifespan.


One of the first key concepts to understanding Ayurveda is the idea of the 20 gunas. A guna is simply a quality that has an opposite quality. These opposites are how the world maintains balance.

Most ayurvedic teachings list 10 pairs:



Oily (moist)




Gross (big)

Subtle (little)







Sticky (cloudy)


Slimy (smooth)


Slow (dull)


The key to using the gunas is to understand that like increases like and opposites bring balance. This is pretty much common sense...if something is hot and you add more heat, it gets hotter. If something is hot and you add cold, it balances out to warm. However, this concept is often overlooked in how we deal with our own personal environment.


To strive for health is to strive for balance. For the most part, our body does a great job naturally bringing balance. Consider how, day in and day out, our body balances hot and cold to maintain our body temperature at a perfect 98.6F... until we get sick and have a fever. Then we might have to help it out by placing a cool compress on our forehead.

This strive for balance affects every aspect of our lives. As you begin to think of the world in gunas, it becomes easier to see how you can bring more balance to your life.

More Examples

If your body feels heavy, eating lighter foods will lighten the body.

If you feel slow, dull, and lethargic, listening to some upbeat, exciting music will counteract that.

If you have a tendency toward heartburn, eating less acidic and more cooling foods should bring relief.

If your mouth feels sticky, drinking clear fluids will help.

If you are always complaining that your skin is dry, rubbing oil into your skin will feel amazing.

Think of Gunas

I encourage you to think of your body, your thoughts, and your environment in terms of gunas. Note where you naturally and intuitively bring balance and where you don't. (Remember that time you were stuffed after a big dinner and you chose to eat cheesecake for dessert anyway?!?!)

Think of the world in gunas and contemplate how to bring balance.

Pin It For Later

Create an ayurveda board and pin this for later.



bottom of page