The ayurvedic way into balance

How to use complementary gunas to create physical and psychological balance

Author: Chloe Hünefeld, Maria Blandine Wegener
The way to our heart is through inner balance. To establish and maintain balance, it helps to study the teachings of Ayurveda. This teaching shows how harmonization and healing processes can be achieved by balancing the 20 gunas or basic qualities of the being.

Inner balance is a delicate issue. It sounds so simple, and yet. The topic of inner and outer balance remains highly topical in the media and self-help. We are always looking for new methods, ways of looking at things, and even technologies to find balance. To maintain the inner and outer balance we long for. We often think of inner and outer balance as a state, a status. Once we establish our balance, we try to maintain current habits in the hope that the balance will remain. However, so many different factors influence our being and feeling at any given moment,


that it makes sense to think of balance as a process rather than a fixed state – namely, a process of continuous calibration.


To dynamically re-establish the sensitive balance in our being at each moment and over time, we can harness the wisdom of Ayurveda. Specifically the 20 Gurvadi Guna or basic qualities of nature.


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The concept of Triguna  funds on the “Law of Three”, whose description, among others, can be found in the Trika system of Kashmir Shivaism. According to which everything in manifestation (prakriti) reveals the existence of three fundamental aspects. Here, two elements are manifest and opposite to each other, for example plus and minus on the number axis. Through their balanced union, they return to the third element, which is beyond the manifest world, in our example, neutral zero, to which no value is assigned.

However, the Ayurvedic system uses the term guna not only in the context of the trigunas sattva, rajas and tamas, but also to describe sensually perceptible qualities. They are listed in Vagbhata’s Ashtanga Hridayam as gurvadi guna or “qualities of nature” (see Tab. 1) and occur in ten pairs of two opposing qualities each, representing yin and yang aspects.

Gurvadi Guna in zehn QualitätenpaarenTab. 1: Gurvadi Guna in ten pairs of qualities according to the Charaka Samhita, white yang and blue yin quality.

Understanding the qualities inherent in the environment, foods, medicinal plants and activities, one can also better understand their effects on the individual constitution. This is where the principle of similarity works. For example, the quality of frictionlessness Slakshna Guna in environment, medicinal plants or food increases the smooth, flexible qualities in the being. Balanced Slakshna Guna is found in flaxseed, for example. But also in flexible joints and smooth skin, and likewise in states of mind such as compassion, caring and understanding.


Quadrat der WerteFig. 1: The “Square of Values” model according to Nicolai Hartmann shows how vices can be transformed into virtues.

To balance imbalances of energies, it helps to cultivate the sattvic or harmonious manifestation of the complementary quality within the quality pairs. Nicolai Hartmann’s “square of values” model illustrates this process beautifully(see figure).


Two antagonistically opposed negative tendencies find their balance in their complementary virtue.


If, for example, excessive thrift becomes miserliness, by consciously engaging in generosity rebalances this condition more easily. Thus not only cultivating (“accumulating”) this quality in our being, but at the same time sublimating the excess (miserliness) that has slipped away from us back into its harmonious manifestation (thrift). Likewise, generosity can descend into wastefulness. To balance this accordingly thrift helps – but not by stinginess.

Below we discuss the effects of all gurvadi gunas in their harmonic and distorted manifestations. Each pair of yin-yang qualities apply to the square of values with both their physiological and psychomental qualities, with the harmonious aspects of one guna balancing the disharmonies of the other.



Guru guna, or the general quality of “heavy,” manifests physically in a harmonious state (sattva) in a healthy body that is well-fed, toned, and has great vital potential. Psychomental, Guru Guna manifests sattvically as natural stability and centering. Rock-solid certainty, tremendous self-confidence, and a clearly structured charismatic personality.
His balancing yin force is called Laghu Guna and describes the general quality of “light”. Sattvically, it manifests in the physical body as the ability to eliminate toxic accumulations (ama) and excess. It brings purity and provides a functional digestive fire. Internal states of sattvic laghu guna include an intense sense of freedom, detachment, and impartiality. These favor a continuous elevation of the mind and lead to originality, spontaneity, and inner lightness.

When both qualities are present in their sattvic manifestation and in equal measure in the being, a natural balance arises. This can spontaneously lead to sublime inner states such as freedom, happiness and peace. Imbalance arises from a more (tamas) or less (rajas) excess of either quality in our being. In excess, guru guna leads to obesity and fat accumulation. That overloads the physical system, as well as increased deposits in vessels, hollow organs, and other tissues that are difficult or impossible to break down. Psychomental guru guna manifests in states such as laziness, sloth and lethargy, greed. Even in compulsive hoarding. The mind becomes rigid, the understanding limited and stuck. It is difficult to change perspective or perceive subtle aspects.

Excessive laghu guna, on the other hand, becomes physically noticeable through weakening. Lack of stability (for example, fluctuations in blood pressure), loss of weight and vitality, and reduction of the body’s defenses. Internally, an excess of Laghu Guna leads to a lack of coherence, carelessness and even negligence.


The physical needs of the organism are ignored, there is a lack of perseverance and the ability to realize oneself, coupled with feelings of insecurity and insignificance.


So lassen sich komplementäre Gunas nutzen, um physischen und psychischen Ausgleich zu schaffen.



For systematic work with the 20 gunas, the recommendation is to first examine which qualities manifest in our being harmoniously and which manifest in an unbalanced way. The help of the square of values determines which inner values and qualities would be wise to accumulate in the being. They will return completely to balance by means of focus and spiritual practice .


Supporting the conscious examination of the opposite virtue, Ayurveda in its branch of Dravyaguna Vijnana, uses dried medicinal plants to transform the inner resonances.


Ayurveda knows a clear classification of medicinal plants. According to the “qualities of nature” (Gurvadi Guna), ayurveda works to transform them into Sharira Guna (qualities within our being) by systematic intake. Occidental phytotherapy suggests to take the dried medicinal plants as a tea  as opposed to ayurveda, which means for them to be salivated in the mouth. Leave them under the tongue as a powder (curna) with mindfulness for a few minutes, then swallow with water.

The help of this technique supports the psychological process in a simple way. Also on the physical level, to approach the balance from several sides at the same time. Ayurveda recommends that the appropriate plant, such as oak (cort.) for the accumulation of sthira gunas (stable) or common yarrow (herb.) for khara guna (rough), be taken three times a day in mindfulness. The more exact determination of the medicinal plant or a mixture of medicinal plants takes on differently. It works with taking into account the particular special constitution of the “patient”. And also the severity (rajas or already tamas excess) of the distorted quality.



About the authors

Unsere Autorin Chloe HünefeldChloe Hünefeld is co-founder of the German Academy for Traditional Yoga and the Foundation for the Promotion of Traditional Yoga. As an alternative practitioner by profession, she has been teaching preventive health methods.  Taht consists of traditional yoga and Ayurveda in theory and practice almost daily since 1998. Her interest has always been the personal path of each individual. How to awaken the soul and thus find more harmony and freedom.


Unsere Autorin Maria Blandine Wegener

Maria Blandine Wegener has been a teacher of Yoga, Ayurveda and Tantra since 2006. She is co-founder of both the Mahasiddha Yoga School in Chiang Mai/Thailand and the ashram resort “AMRITA Integral Yoga Centre” in the rural north of the country, which invites to monthly retreats around the themes of spirituality and health. More information at:




This article was originally published in the German Issue of Tattva Viveka Special Issue: Der ayurvedische Weg in die Balance

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