Do you feel lazy even after eight hours of beauty sleep? Has your digestive system begun to rebel against the chaos of your lifestyle? According to Ayurveda, proper digestion is key to physical and mental health. To reduce ama—toxic buildup in the body—and increase ojas—the end product of perfect digestion—it’s essential to have strong agni, or digestive fire.
Think of it as doing your dirty laundry. Not the most exciting task, but when the stained clothes go through the wash, they come out clean, fragrant, and bright! Think of your body as being similar. The dirt in your laundry can be compared to the ama in your body. With a little holistic cleansing and the right detoxification, the bright, vital essence of ojas shines through. Wait, what?
Before we go further, let us understand more of what ama is, why it accumulates, and why we should make every effort to keep it out of our systems. (Hint: for longevity.)
Amas, Ojas, and Agni
As mentioned earlier, wellness is closely linked with how good or bad your digestion is in the science of Ayurveda. When the digestive fire is weak, undigested food begins to accumulate in the form of toxins, which weaken metabolism and becomes a fertile ground for infections and illnesses to manifest in the body. When ama is high in the body, you won’t experience the presence of vitality or ojas. Ama blocks out and weakens the body’s self-healing abilities. It also hinders your immunity, while having more ojas promises longevity and health.
What are some of the symptoms of an ama buildup in the body?
- Skin conditions such as rashes and acne
- Chronic inflammation
- Bad breath
- Body odor
- Lack of clarity
- Leaky gut
- Weight gain
Ojas: The Body’s Natural Honey
When your digestion is sound, all three doshas are in good balance, and your diet and lifestyle are aligned with your constitution and changing seasons, ojas or vigor emerge. Ojas is said to be the finest essence of every form of intake and is formed out of the sap of all seven dhatus or tissues. It is the reservoir of energy within us. To put it simply, living in alignment with nature, a proper diet, regular digestive detoxes, and good digestion ensure your ojas remain high.
Another meaning of ojas is the distilled pure mind. The presence of ojas brings calmness to the mind and is the essential link between our body and consciousness. In other words, making progress in our spiritual journey requires us to improve our ojas and bring down the toxin levels of ama through spiritual, emotional, and herbal cleanses.
Signs of high ojas include
- Glowing skin
- Better immunity
- Emotional balance
- Sharper intellect
Stoke the Fire
So, how do we strengthen our digestive fire or agni? In Ayurveda, an important indicator of good health is strong digestive fire. The agni principle relates to digestion, assimilation, and conversion of food into energy. When the digestive fire is strong, digestion is optimal, and there is total assimilation of food, leaving very little toxins or ama behind—the ojas remain high, and you feel healthy, light, and clear.
Agni is not just about digesting food. Absorption of knowledge, wisdom, and spiritual strength has much to do with how strong one’s agni is as well.
This is where Ayurveda-prescribed detox cleanses play an important role. Cleansing rekindles and restores agni at its optimal levels, using a combination of personalized therapies, treatments, diet, yoga, and lifestyle changes based on your individual constitution of bio energies or doshas. Cleansing eliminates ama from your system, which is the root cause of various illnesses, fatigue, and low energy.
A few signs of weak agni, which could lead to heavier ama accumulation, include
- Poor appetite
- Difficulty in handling emotions
- Unrelenting digestive problems, including acidity, bloating, constipation
- Excess mucus
- Yellow-coated tongue
If you are experiencing week agni and too much ama, there are several ways Ayurvedic remedies can help detox your body. Here are a few to get you started.
Increasing your vitality almost essentially begins with correcting your diet. Here are a few things that you can keep in mind:
- Eat fresh, sweet, unctuous, juicy, locally grown, easy on the stomach, and not raw foods. Ojas-rich foods include clarified butter, dates, nuts, green vegetables, avocadoes, whole grains, sweet potatoes, and yams.
- Avoid raw, undercooked, frozen, deeply fried, or stale food.
- Avoid white sugar, refined flour, processed foods, colors, and additives.
- Eat mindfully and only when hungry.
- Chew your food completely—until it liquefies.
- Avoid eating when stressed or emotional.
- Stop eating at least three hours before bedtime.
- Sit down while you eat and drink.
- Get physically active.
Massage or Abhyanga
Abhyanga or full-body deep tissue massages are part of most Ayurvedic cleanses. Here, the therapist massages your whole body with warm oil made combined with fresh herbs suited for your imbalances and constitution in a very calming and relaxing environment. These massages also activate and rejuvenate the lymphatic system, nourish the nervous system, produce relaxation, and strengthen immunity.
Nasal therapy, also called Nasya in Ayurveda, clears out your nasal pathways. It reduces sinus-related headaches, calms anxiety, gets rid of excess mucus accumulating in the respiratory system, and makes more ojas available in the body.
Tongue Scraping & Oil Pulling
Tongue scraping and oil pulling are some of the most effective ways to eliminate ama deposits on a daily basis. These practices support good digestion, increase ojas; activate the salivary glands for better digestion and boost metabolism. Getting rid of bad odor in the mouth is just the bonus.
Stress is an enemy of vitality and vigor. While some of us may think we function better under some degree of stress, we may not see the damage it causes to our mind-body complex in the long run. Stress is the new smoking, and to improve ojas levels, stress-related toxins need to be removed from the body. This can be done through powerful practices like deep diaphragmatic breathing, SKY breath, meditation, forest bathing, connecting with nature, serving, creative hobbies, gardening, and even playing with your kids or pets!
This is a strange loop where sensory control helps improve ojas; when ojas is high, you have some sensory control as its byproduct. Pratyahara is one of the practices mentioned in Saint Patanjali’s yogic treatise as a way to conserve vitality. It is the act of having a say in our senses, not overindulging beyond our capacity, and practicing discipline.