10 Pairs of Opposites: Dense & Flowing

10 Pairs of Opposites: Dense & Flowing

This is a 10-part series where I will be reviewing each of the 10 pairs of Opposites (AKA qualities or Gunas) in depth.

Everything in this Universe (man made and natural, physical and abstract) are based off the five elements; Ether (Space), Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. From these five elements, the Rishis (or Ayurvedic Seers) determined that there were 10 pairs of Opposites that are used to view the Universe and restore balance. Through observation, palpation, and questioning an Ayurvedist will see where you have excess or depleted gunas, and work to restore them to their proper ratio.

These gunas impact everything!!

Sāndra (Dense) and Drava (Flowing)

Dense tends to feel heavy, stuck, non-moving, maybe it evokes something viscous like tar or a heavy oil (like castor). Flowing tends to evoke visions of a moving river or someone who is super groovy and constantly saying “just go with the flow, maaan!”

Physiological / Body – Dense and Flowing 

In other gunas we have talked about either/or situations. And certainly, a dense body type may be short and stout whereas a flowing body type might be long and lean.

Let’s explore how dense and flowing occur in the body in everyone, regardless of how their external shell looks. Blood flow is absolutely needed, otherwise things get bad fast. The food you eat needs to be able to flow through the body’s GI tract. If it flows too fast, you get diarrhea (and it may come out of you in a more liquid / flowy format). If it doesn’t flow at all, then you get constipation and probably some bloating as this dense thing is slowly moving throughout torso.

Can you tell Ayurveda like to talk about your poop chute? Yea, we really do.

Dense can also be the padding around the organs or provides the many layers of the skin. The density of a good healthy muscle is also a great example of how we need dense matter in our lives.

Psychological / Mind – Dense and Flowing

When grounded, a dense mind and a flowing mind are one and the same. Seems contradictory doesn’t it? But a mindful / meditative mind is grounded, able to see the world without being overly swayed yet still in tune to when changes need to be made. This is sadly not always the norm.

An overly dense mind will seem very heavy and immovable. A dense head may be how one feels during allergy season, where the head and the mind feel like a lead block, nothing getting in and nothing coming out. Too heavy and thick to do much but just be there.

An overly flowy mind will constantly be distracted, finding new things to latch onto. It won’t move so quickly as an overly mobile mind. A mobile mind will be like a hummingbird fluttering all over the place, a flowing mind will still be bouncing around, but will also include a dreamy quality to it. A daydreamer, someone who isn’t always in touch with reality. Water (typically associated with flowy) evokes the dream world, the subconscious realm.

Emotional / Spiritual – Dense and Flowing 

Emotionally a grounded mind will be like what we discussed above. Able to be grounded yet not stuck in their emotional approach. Flowing, yet still connected to reality.

Dense emotions are those heavy emotions that just seem to drown you when you are living through them. Grief, sadness, and isolation are examples.

Flowy emotions can be that dreamy factor we talked about above. It can be that Zen “go with the flow” personality. Out of balance, this person might seem like a stoner – too confused with what is going on around them.

External Environment – Dense and Flowing 

A dense environment might be one thick with emotion. Ever walk into a room after a verbally heated battle or during a funeral. It’s like you can taste the emotion. That would be a dense atmosphere.

Dense environment might also be evoked when you go to those hot southern states near the swamps. Where it feels like the density of the humidity is giving you a shoulder workout.

A flowy atmosphere can be where there are too many cooks in the kitchen, too many managers trying to tell you how to do a project. Too many ideas.


Ayurveda looks at using opposite qualities to reduce the excess. Please keep in mind that the human body is a complex system. Talk to an Ayurvedist before trying to balance things on your own.

Heightening awareness is always the first step in Ayurveda, and you can do that safely in your own home.  If you have been following along this series, you can now start playing with the subtle differences between some of the qualities; is your world more mobile or more flowing? Maybe you are dealing with some depression issues – is it denser, or heavy or dull? When talking with your partner or friends, are your conversations dense or flowing, are there elements of both?