10 Pairs of Opposites: Smooth & Rough

10 Pairs of Opposites: Smooth & Rough

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!!

Shlakshṇa (Smooth) and Khara (Rough)

Smooth like butter? Or rough as the dessert sands? Which are you? You’ll see that rough is only able to be defined by how much smoothness is available, and vice versa.

Physiological / Body – Smooth and Rough 

Let’s talk about our skin! In perfect balance our skin is neither too soft nor too rough. But the skin can be a touch point (get it? sensory jokes!) for some of us. Too smooth and the skin may feel oily. Too rough you feel that dry skin in all it's itchy rough glory. What is interesting? Too rough of skin, put oil on it! Too oily of skin, use a rough agent (something that dries the skin). That is the rule of opposites come to life right there!

Rough and Smooth can also describe the state of our joints and our organs. There is smooth muscle OR muscle fibers that can go all sorts of directions giving it a rougher texture. Our joints need both roughness of the bone, so they aren’t slipping and sliding everywhere, and they also need some smoothness, so they aren’t popping, cracking, or grinding.

Psychological / Mind – Smooth and Rough

A smooth and rough balanced mind is a mind that can stick to its morals yet be smooth enough to allow for new ideas to enter the mind. Someone who is open, yet not going to lose sight of themselves.

A too smooth mind… well think of a well-polished bar counter. Slide the beer too far and it goes right off the end. Nothing sticks! (for beer that is good, for morals, ethics, guidelines, lessons, memories…. Not so good).

A mind that is too rough? This mind will get hung up on every little detail. Think of sandpaper in the mental realm. This mind set will struggle with warming to new ideas, letting go of old expectations, and difficult to take on additional knowledge.

Emotional / Spiritual – Smooth and Rough 

Tough love is a way to see balanced emotions with smooth and rough. You need to have some level of skepticism or cynical attitude (rough), but you also need to be open and free (smooth) to allow emotions to come through, see the beauty of life, and to enjoy the moment.

External Environment – Smooth and Rough 

Smooth could be the feelings of vacation – where the days and nights blend together. Rough could be those stressful workdays where everything doesn’t work out. There is a reason that “rough” can describe a stressful day or a rough surface in modern day speak.

COVID stay-at-home status might be a good example of these items can work in tandem, but maybe not in such a balanced way. I swear these days are blending together with no fun activities or places to go to break up the time. Its too smooth. But it has been a rough time of schedule upheaval, watching friends and loved ones get sick, and the worry of our economy.


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; which quality plays out in your life more: smooth or rough? Does that answer change depending on the environment you are physically in, the time of day, or the season? What kind of things can you do to help relieve that excess? For example, if you see that you work in too rough of a working condition, how can you smooth out those rough areas? (Aromatherapy, meditation breaks, listening to good music etc.)