Rajas is one of the gunas—the three basic energetic constituents of the cosmos. The gunas are in a constant flux and they affect everything around us—energy, matter, and consciousness. Rajas is a state of energy, action, change, and movement. The nature of rajas is of attraction, longing, and attachment. When in excess, rajas can create anxiety, excessive thinking, and hyperactivity. Fortunately, rajas guna can be reduced and balanced through some simple changes to your yoga practice, meditation, diet, and lifestyle.
Usually, one of the gunas is more present than the other three, but to lead a happy, healthy, calm and grounded life we need a balance of all three gunas. The specific amount of each of the three gunas a person needs is based on environment, type of work performed, physical constitution and spiritual goals. For example, a higher amount of rajasic energy would be helpful for people who are athletes, work in creative fields, live in a damp/humid environment, or yogis needing a more stimulating practice.
Having too much rajas can lead to desire, distortion, stress, exhaustion, anger and emotional upset. Rajas drives one to achieve goals that only result in a temporary and short term happiness. This guna distorts our hearts and minds with passions, attachments, and obsessions making it difficult for one to transcend towards the higher state of sattva guna.
Yoga practitioners have a wide range of tools to reduce and balance rajas—but don’t try to do everything at once! To begin to shift rajas, make one or two daily changes and take note of their effects after a few days. Notice which ideas you have the strongest reaction or resistance towards. These will most likely have the strongest effect on shifting you away from rajas guna. Experiment and adjust your approach to reducing and balancing rajas as necessary.
Asana adjustments to reduce rajas
Practicing at least one restorative pose every day will be very effective at reducing tamas. You’ll also need to practice holding all yoga poses longer and minimize or eliminate vinyasa and sun salutation type sequences. Practicing forward folds and side bending poses will be calming and soothing. Upper back bending poses (such as fish pose, sphinx pose or snake pose) will be helpful to open the heart area to reduce anxiety.
Add pranayama to calm and cool rajas
Practicing 10-15 minutes a day of calming pranayama will be an effective way to clear out the agitating energy of rajas. If your attention is distracted by outside noise or stimulation, try practicing several minutes of ocean sounding breath. If you are feeling too much of rajas’ hot-headedness, practice a few minutes of the cooling pranayamas of shitali and sit cari.
Mellow out rajas guna with meditation
The stillness and soothing effects of seated meditation can be very efficient way to disperse the overstimulating effect of rajas on the heart and mind. Practice calming meditations like inner peace meditation, third eye meditation, and heart chakra meditation. If your mind is especially active and tends towards excessive thinking, try mantra meditation. If there is excessive anger and bitterness in your heart, practice meta meditation.
Lifestyle adjustments for rajas
The biggest lifestyle change to consider for reducing rajas is to slow down, do less, and catch up with sleep and rest. Avoid busy and stimulating environments—instead, seek out nature and find places that promote serenity, contemplation, introspection, and pratyahara. Talk less, listen more and engage in mindful communication. Listen to slow calming music or turn off the radio and enjoy silence. Avoid over-exercising, over-work, and over-consuming. Seek cool and dimly lit environments and avoid exposure to wind. Practice karma yoga—volunteer a few hours a week at a non-profit and practice one simple act of kindness daily.
Diet changes to decrease rajas guna
Making adjustments to your diet will have a powerful effect on balancing rajas guna. Avoid eating on the go and resist gobbling your food down—instead sit down for meals, eat slowly, and take several moments to bless and/or feel gratitude before eating. Foods that are bitter, sour, or salty are rajasic, so emphasize the Ayurvedic tastes of sweet, pungent and astringent. Avoid fried or greasy foods, spicy foods, and warming foods. Minimize fish and eggs, and eat plenty of dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, arugula, collards and romaine lettuce. If feeling hot-headed, consuming watermelon, mint, cucumber, and seaweeds will be especially cooling. Avoid caffeine, chocolate, and sugar.
As you move away from rajas, it is important not to move too far towards a state of tamas guna. As you feel the effects of rajas become minimized, shift your focus towards cultivating the energy of sattva guna. While it may take a tremendous amount of inner-strength to move away from the hyperactive and overstimulating power of rajas guna, you will be rewarded with a more happy, healthy, calm and grounded life.