Tamas 101: The Guna Of Inertia & Dullness Explained & How To Cope With It

Photo of author
Written by
Last Updated:

According to Hinduistic and Yogic beliefs, the material world is composed of three qualities or gunas.

These gunas are rajas, which refers to passion, sattva which translates to purity, and tamas, or darkness.

These three gunas are present in everything and everyone. They are all natural.

However, too much tamas is not good. It stuns our self-growth and prevents us from progressing in life and being happy.

In this article, we will cover:

  • Tamas Meaning
  • How Tamas Manifests In Your Life and Personality
  • Positive Aspects of Tamas
  • Tamas and Spirituality
  • How To Cope With Tamas
  • Bonus Tip and Encouragement – Learn About Spirituality

Read on to learn what is tamas, how it manifests in your life, and what you can do to overcome it. 

a man lazily lying on a sofa using a tv remote

Tamas Meaning

So, we established Tamas is one of the three gunas, qualities that are present in everything and everyone. Now let’s go a bit deeper into the characteristics of this energy. 

One of the most common translations of tamas is “darkness”.

Bhagavata Purana describes it as grief, sorrow, anger, and sin.

The text Manusmriti goes even further by describing it as “the darkness of hell”. It also describes it as “drowsiness, irresolution, disbelief, bad character, inattentiveness.”

The Samkhya school of philosophy also uses the terms “indifference” and resistance to action to describe it.

a moon in a dark sky

How Tamas Manifests In Your Life and Personality

Tamas is a part of everything in life, but we will particularly focus on how it manifests in our own personalities.

Yoga teaches that one who has a tamasic personality has a lack of self-care, overthinks, overindulges in things, and acts recklessly. 

Those with the dominating tamas energy are also inactive, ignorant, lazy, and dull. Their energy is stagnant and for this reason, they are often in poor health. 

Furthermore, they lack self-confidence and are easily influenced.

Lacking love for themselves, tamasic people will become egoistic and separated from others. They will turn to bad habits, like drug and alcohol addiction, overeating, or oversleeping. They become passive, careless, lustful, full of anger, and confused. 

Paramhansa Yogananda adds more qualities to his Psychological Chart, such as stupidity, quietness, lack of moral reason, shyness, carelessness, procrastination, codependency, negligency, inability to accept criticism, and being habitual and superstitious. 

As one would expect from reading all of these characteristics, tama guna can easily lead us to depression and other mental health issues. 

a man in a white shirt looking despondent at a table

Positive Aspects of Tamas

Of course, reading about all of the negative aspects of tamas makes us think we need to get rid of this energy entirely. However, that is not true, and it is impossible, as tamas is a natural part of everything in life.

Also, tamas has its positive aspects. It is responsible for sleep and rest – without this quality, we wouldn’t be able to relax and recharge. 

It also makes us stable and grounded. As you might know if you ever explored the chakra system: without a stable Root Chakra, we cannot progress in our life, as we will always feel ungrounded and insecure. The same is true for Tamas. 

Tamas and Spirituality

On a deeper level, Tamas darkens the soul and blinds us, preventing us from taking responsibility for our life. A tamasic person cannot express their creativity, take control of their life or grow spiritually. 

Furthermore, Tamas can delude us into thinking the material world is everything there is and binds us to the five senses. A person with a tamasic mind is unconscious and lacks knowledge. 

Being identified with the ego and the body, they will struggle to enter the journey of self-growth.

Their passiveness and lack of self-confidence and willpower will also prevent them on the spiritual journey, which, as beautiful as it is, also requires discipline and action.

For this reason, regardless of how difficult it is, one should accept their state and firmly decide to overcome tamas in order to take a huge positive step in their lives. 

a womans hands on her chest

How To Cope With Tamas

If you recognized yourself in our list of tamasic qualities, you are already on the right track to overcome it. If you were too deep in Tamas, you wouldn’t be able to see your own faults.

We all struggle with overactive tamas in some periods of our lives. If that’s the case for you right now, here are some actionable tips to overcome it. 

1. Change up your yoga practice

Yoga can relax us but it can also boost our energy. Instead of doing only Restorative or Yin Yoga, incorporate more Vinyasa flows.

Vinyasa is a dynamic practice and includes many standing asanas, which will encourage activity and combat dullness and lethargy.

Sun Salutations are great for combating the Tamas guna, and so are backbend poses. Firmly decide to practice every day while you’re going through the tamasic period – even 15 minutes of active practice will shift your energy and mood.

a man doing a forward fold in a garden wearing purple yoga trousers

2. Regulate your breath

Performing pranayama or breathing exercises, even for a couple of minutes, will make us more aware of the present moment, and our current state of mind.

It will help us overcome anger and overthinking, both qualities of tamas.

There are also faster breathing exercises like Kapalabhati and Bhastrika which can help us overcome lethargy, fatigue, and laziness by boosting our energy.

3. Meditation

One of the qualities of Tamas is lack of consciousness, and meditation “wakes us up”.

However, if you are in the tamas energy, it might be difficult to enter meditation due to overthinking, and you could fall asleep in the process.

Instead, try movement meditation techniques – such as walking meditation or therapeutic dance. You could also try chanting and mantras, and japa meditation with beads, as these will help you focus. 

4. Avoid oversleeping

We all need to sleep – it is essential for our health. However, those who sleep too much become sluggish, lazy, and even more fatigued, which increases Tamas.

Work towards regulating your sleep schedule by going to sleep at the same time every day. In the beginning, you will often feel the urge to take a nap. To avoid it, engage in activities like walking, reading, or hanging out with friends… anything that gets you up and moving.

Also, avoid too much sitting in the same place and position. If you are doing a desk job, make sure to stretch frequently. 

a man being tamasic lying in bed

5. Change your diet

Just changing your diet can help you overcome Tamas. Tamasic foods are red meat, eggs, alcohol, overly processed food, and everything that makes you feel heavy, like simple carbs.

Stale food, leftovers, and any food that is overeaten is tamasic. These foods drain us of energy, and we feel a need to take a nap as our body uses energy to digest this food.

Instead, increase the intake of Sattvic foods, which are fresh fruits and vegetables that grow above the ground. This will take a lot of willpower to achieve, but once you see and feel the results, you will know the work was well worth it. 

6. Other lifestyle changes

Tamasic people will often prefer having fun at home, in front of the screen, which increases both laziness and the feeling of detachment from other people.

Instead, include more activities that make you move physically, such as sports, yoga, and going out in nature. Also, spend more time with other people and try to build a community.

Yes, it takes time to become more social and active if you spent years in a more tamasic energy, but you’ll be surprised by the positive impact it has in your life.

a group of people all holding hands

Bonus Tip and Encouragement – Learn About Spirituality

Here’s a bonus tip, a personal view, and an encouragement.

I know it can be difficult to read the description of Tamas and find your own personality in the descriptions. I know, because I have been living in the tamasic energy for years, and embodied all of these qualities.

I was battling with depression, struggled with addictions, overthinking, oversleeping, was insecure, and couldn’t accept responsibility for my own life.

There is not enough space in this article for me to share the entire story, but both I and my group of friends found great value in learning. One of the characteristics of tamas is a lack of knowledge.

Begin reading about spirituality, and go for books and talks which are just a tiny bit too difficult for you, to encourage thinking and focus.

Pack your social media feed with words of encouragement, and with motivational talks – I know they can sometimes feel superficial, but they will enter your subconscious mind and encourage you to become active.

Find other people who are also growing on this journey, there are countless spiritual paths and communities.

Even if you are unable to strictly adhere to one system, having a community will do a ton for you. And in this way, you will not only learn – but also have a support system and stop feeling detached from others.

Becoming social is an essential part of not only combating Tamas, but also overcoming the ego and becoming ready to enter deeper spiritual truths.

And as difficult as it is, you’ll soon get addicted to the effort!

Read more about how Tamas interacts with other two gunas in our article:

Photo of author
Sara lives in Croatia, near the sea, with her dog. She enjoys exploring nature, and making art. She is currently developing a series of children’s/YA stories and comics in her native language, which she feels complements her work and allows her to live her dream life – having yoga, writing, art, and nature in her every day.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.