It's been awhile since I put up any Ayurveda info! Here's a response I wrote to a forum I am a member of.....
Triguna, or the three gunas, are the primary expression of all nature. They are Sattwa, Rajas, and Tamas. Guna literally means “what binds.” In the Sankhya philosophy of Kapila, the five great elements, Panch Mahabuta, arise from the gunas. They contain all the limitless possibilities and potentials for people, thoughts, actions, objects, and in fact everything in the manifest universe.
In both Ayurveda and Vedic sciences the gunas stand as one of the fundamental concepts that should be learned and applied to life. Every object in the world has a different mixture of these three qualities. If we were to look at the creation scheme of Sankhya; Triguna give rise to the Tanmantras, which give rise to Pancha Mahabutas, and the Pancha Mahabutas give rise to all gross effects.
The root word of Sattwa is “sat”, which is employed in the sense of reality and goodness. It is viewed as a balance between Rajas and Tamas. Sattwa is the source of intelligence and the desire to awaken our spiritual potential. It promotes clarity and awareness. In the Bhagvad Gita Chp. 14 v.6:
Of these, Sattwa being pure causes illumination and health. It binds, by attachment to happiness and by attachment to Knowledge.
Rajas has the qualities of movement, activity, and energy. It is the force of motivated action, and has an inherent outward movement that causes selfishness. Rajas creates suffering and pain as described by Bhagavan Krishnaji in Bhagavad Gita Chp. 14 v.7:
Rajas, know thou, is of the nature of attraction, springing from craving and attachment. It binds fast, Son of Kunti, the embodied one by attachment to action.
Tamas is said to be heavy and cause delusion. It is darkness and the ignorance that comes with it. It obstructs us from seeing the true nature of who we are. Again, from the Bhagavad Gita Chp 14 v. 8
Tamas, know thou, is born of ignorance and deludes all embodied beings. It binds, by (developing the qualities of) negligence, indolence, and sleep.
The Bhagavd Gita sums up the experience of the trigunas in Chp 14. v.17:
From Sattwa arises knowledge and from Rajas greed, negligence and error arise from Tamas, as well as ignorance.
All of the gunas bind us to nature, which is their job! To rise above this is to become trigunatita, beyond the modes of the gunas. S. Radhakrishnan in his commentary on the Bhagavad Gita says, “Sattwa is subliminated into the light of consciousness (jyoti), Rajas into austerity (tapas), Tammas into tranquility (shanti).”