Have you ever wondered how is it that when exposed to similar environments, pollutants, and bacterial strains, some people get infected faster and more frequently than others? What is even more baffling is that this factor simply doesn’t seem to be linked to one’s age. The mysterious factor is immunity, something that we all have been reading too much about of late, thanks to the pandemic. But here’s what you may not know about immunity.
According to the 5000-year-old wellness science of Ayurveda, stronger immunity is linked to a subtle force of energy, which is also the purest essence of kapha dosha, called ojas. Here’s something interesting about ojas—the highly coveted qualities of peace, calm, contentment-mental stability in a nutshell, is governed by how strong ojas is in an individual. In other words, nobody can rile you up or affect you with their negativity, no matter how hard they try, if your ojas is high. So what is ojas? And how can you get more of it?
Let us back up here a little and understand ojas as a subtle essence of kapha dosha.
Doshas and the Three Essences
The three doshas—vata, pitta, and kapha are subtly linked to three types of vital energy forces: prana (life force), tejas (inner radiance) and ojas (vital energy reserve). Prana is the life force energy within us and tejas is the inner fiery radiance that helps absorb impressions and thoughts. These forces together with doshas regulate various mind-body functions. Interestingly, while imbalance or aggravation in doshas leads to potential illnesses, an increase in the three subtle essences of the doshas, leads to clarity, health, vitality, and strength. When the three forces are balanced and abundant in the body, it opens up intuitive and spiritually evolutionary qualities in an individual.
We are what we eat and ojas is the Ayurvedic way of representing this truth. Ojas is the finest essence of what we take into our system, formed from the sap of all the tissues. Ojas translates to primal vigor, the force of vitality in us. It represents our reservoir of energy. So if you are eating the right foods in the right amount and living a life that is aligned to your prakruti, your ojas is likely to be high. Some describe it as ‘body’s natural honey’.
“It connects one’s physiology with consciousness and is responsible for greater immunity.” Dr Nisha Manikantan says in her popular work, Ayurveda Simplified.
More subtly, ojas is also the essence of our mind, thoughts and impressions held in our subconsciousness. Mind distilled of all its impurities is ojas. It is responsible for the calm in our minds and for supporting the higher states of consciousness. For this reason, if we are physically weak, lacking in vigor, it becomes that much more difficult to rise higher in our journey towards our self. This explains the importance given to yoga abhyasa and diet, for spiritual growth.
When ojas is high, the mind is patient and resilient, there is more contentment, and there is no mental fatigue.
Here are some signs to check if you have high ojas:
On the physical level
- Brighter complexion
- Clear bright eyes
- High energy
- Heightened awareness of the senses
- Good immunity
- Light body
On the psychological level
- Clarity of mind
- Sense of well-being
- Happy and pleasant state of mind.
And, here are signs that ojas is low:
- Skin dryness
- Lackluster skin and hair
- Usually cold feet
- Sense organs do not function as efficiently
- Muscle or joint issues
- Prone to infections
- Confused and foggy state of mind
- Prone to depression and anxiety
- Feelings of loneliness or insufficiency.
The Link between Ojas and Immunity
One of the ways Ayurveda recommends we increase our immunity is by increasing ojas. Ojas gives the body the required vitality and resilience to fight illnesses and infections. You can think of it as a thin yet powerful film or wall of energy that protects the body from potential diseases. Ojas has a very important preventive role to play in modern times. Once infected, then an individual needs to go through the course of treatment best suited for one’s healing. But having more Ojas ensures, the body’s innate immune strength is held up.
Ojas for Digestion
Ojas is also linked to and is an indicator of how strong your digestion is going to be. When the food you eat is light to digest and is fully metabolized, the end result is that ojas increases in your body. Good digestion and transformation of the food into dhatus, leaves you with high ojas.
Ojas for Pregnancy
Ojas, on the physical level, as the purest essence of Kapha is related to fluids, reproductive organs, and hormones in the body. According to Ayurveda experts, for people trying to have progeny, it is important to build Ojas. And this vital reservoir of energy is needed by the body to dip into even during the pregnancy and in the postnatal period.
The ubiquitous stress, anxiety and exposure to negativity and environmental pollution, coupled with a life that is so misaligned from nature including our diet, sleep routine, and state of wellness, all have an impact on the level of ojas in our body. Rejuvenation and self-care is the key to increase the ojas in our body. We need to pay attention to our lifestyle, the food we eat, and how we facilitate the removal of toxins that build in our system from time to time through mind-body practices and wellness systems such as Ayurveda.
Now that you know everything there is to know about the importance and benefits of high ojas, here are a few things you can do to increase it.
- Diet for Ojas. We are going to repeat ourselves—we are what we eat and correcting the diet is the first step in this journey towards increasing vitality. For that make sure the food you eat is high prana or foods that have more life force in them, and secondly, check how strong your digestive fire or Agni is. The stronger your digestive fire, the better you will digest and more Ojas gets generated.
Foods rich in Ojas carry unctuous, cool, sweet, heavy and smooth quality to them. So basically any food that is fresh, sweet and full of juices should be high on Ojas.
Foods that are richest in Ojas include ghee or clarified butter, nuts, dates, raw milk of cow, fresh leafy vegetables, avocados, banana, figs, sweet potatoes, yams, beans, tofu, whole grains, turnip and zucchini. Stay away from raw, undercooked foods, or foods that are frozen, fried or stale. That immediately compromises your ojas levels. Also avoid alcohol, white sugar, refined flour, processed foods or foods with preservatives.
- Abhyanga. Performing Abhyanga, which is a warm oil massage, helps channel the toxins and impurities through the digestive tract to be thrown out of the body. When the toxins or ama is removed from the body, the immune system is strengthened, the lymphatic system is reinvigorated, and ojas is higher. Performing self-Abhyanga a few times a week also increases the time our body spends with an active parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for rest.
- Nasya. Nasya or nasal therapy helps lubricate and clear out nasal pathways. Here one channels herb infused oils into the nasal cavity. Nasya is known to help reduce sinus related migraines, reduce anxiety, remove excess mucus and waste from nasal passage, and strengthen the mind and nervous system, and of course make more ojas available for the body.
- Shirodhara. This is this beautiful and calming relaxation therapy that involves a steady flow of medicated herbal oil poured on the forehead, activating specific pressure points on the forehead. This calms the nervous system and relieves stress stored in the mind-body complex, which potentially lowers ojas.
- Oil Pulling and tongue scraping. One factor that compromises Ojas is the accumulation of aama or toxins. The practice of tongue scraping and oil pulling on a daily basis, helps get rid of the aama deposits regularly. Apart from strengthening ojas, these practices also aid digestion, make salivary glands work better, and support metabolism better. The practices leave you feeling fresh, light, and without bad odor in the mouth, since the toxins that lead to odor problems have been removed. They also support gum health.
- Get rid of stress. Practice deep diaphragmatic breathing, SKY yoga, and meditation; enjoy forest bathing; get out in nature; get into rock climbing; inculcate hobbies like reading, music; make mandala art; gardening or keep pets. Do what it takes to keep stress at bay because stress undermines your immunity and ojas.
- Pratyahara. This is a beautiful concept mentioned in the Yoga Sutras authored by the great sage Rishi Patanjali thousands of years ago, a thorough treatise on the science of yoga. Pratyahara is the act of having a say on the senses and sensory activities, keeping from overindulgence, through persistent discipline and spiritual practices. Pratyahara or moderation in everything we do, helps conserve this vitality in the form of ojas.
- Herbs and more. Taking Ayurvedic herbs like Manjusha, Guduchi, holy basil, gooseberries, curry leaves, and natural probiotics can also go a long way in supporting ojas building.