In Ayurveda there is much talk about ojas. But what exactly is ojas? Is it some magical, sparkling, golden elixir like I first imagined it to be? According to Ayurvedic guru David Frawley, “Ojas is not a physical substance, but the sap of our life energy that exists on a subtle level in the body.” Ojas, described as our life force, is an elusive substance said to give vitality and strength. Also described as the essential energy of our immune system, ojas is said to originate in the heart, pervading the entire body, giving sparkle to the eyes, glow to the skin, and immunity to the cells.
Created by the body through the proper digestion of food, ojas is the concentrated essence of all the Dhātus (bodily tissues). When ojas is low, we are more susceptible to developing both mental and physical diseases, which, with time, can turn into chronic, degenerative diseases. Short-term effects of depleted ojas include low energy, fatigue, and low motivation. Factors said to decrease ojas include: anger, fear, worry, too much screen time, unprocessed emotions, overwork, excessive sexual activity, stress, consumption of devitalized (processed) food, refined sugars, stimulants, alcohol, caffeine, unnatural environment, lighting, and lack of sleep. Naturally decreasing with age, many of the diseases of old age reflect low ojas, while premature aging is said to be a result of low ojas.
Since first learning of ojas, I’ve been practicing tuning into this subtle energy each day, increasing ojas-building activities as needed. The Pitta dosha in myself, and many of those I see around, wants to push too hard, depleting this energy to the point of exhaustion. This go-go-go and perform-achieve-attain type of life we tend to have is what drains our ojas. Since tuning in to this, I’ve been able to truly feel and see the toll this type of living takes on my body on those days I push too hard. While I honor the fact that life gets busy for us all, we must remember that we hold the power to make small changes and choices in our lives to help regain balance and health when needed; and Ayurveda provides us with many ways to do this.
One of my favorite ways to develop ojas is to spend time in nature. Others ways to develop ojas include:
o Silence (time alone without stimulation)
o Yoga Nidra
o Compassion and love (for self and others)
o Being mindful of prana (energy)—not draining all energy through overstimulation of senses
o Eating slowly and mindfully
o Time away from our screens—take a day off social media/television/computers
o Eating freshly prepared food (nothing microwaved, frozen, or reheated)
o Steadiness of mind through the focus of awareness/meditation
o Good nutrition—fresh, (preferably) vegetarian food: bananas, sweet potatoes, leafy greens, quinoa, nuts, oatmeal, avocado, dates, figs, honey, olive oil, coconut oil, mung dal, kitchari, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds
o Leaving stomach ¼ empty when eating
o Rejuvenating herbs: Ashwagandha, Chayavanprash, Bala
o Keeping healthy relationships—good relationships and love rejuvenate ojas
o Deep sleep, rest, and naps
o Jasmine, sandalwood, or camphor essential oils (bonus: coconut or sesame oil massage)
o Flowers and plants in the home
o Removal of clutter—keeping a tidy space
I invite you to take the time to close your eyes, take a deep breath, and tune in to this subtle energy. Does your ojas need boosting? Pick a practice from above, if so!