Let’s get into ojas—
sounds like Oh-Jus.
It is a key piece to our overall wellness. It helps build our reserve strength, and so says an ancient ayurveda text if our ojas is abundant we can live happy for a hundred years. Sign me up, happiness is wished by most isn’t it? What is this magic? Well not quite magic, but having a healthy ojas helps us to be our best self. The subtle energies are prana, tejas, and ojas; they are the subtle side team to the three doshas vata, pitta, and kapha. They are a team that work together to allow our deeper tissues the strength and sustenance they need. Shukra dhatu, another player here, is the reproductive channel and it is important to have wellness at this deeper layer because it feeds the health of our ojas. Ojas some say is the purest essence of kapha, it is the force that allows us to ride the waves and the ever changing tides of life, both protecting us and giving us the power that is the strong calm center of a storm. Life being the storm, calm center being us.
I was feeling so anxious, not the worried overwhelmed kind of anxious but the kind where I just couldn’t get settled down, grounded in my feet. I drank my warm water, and my golden milk daily every morning, I did a lovely yoga practice, but with all the variables going on I couldn’t get settled into myself. The smokey air here in California (which had gotten much better), being stuck inside, the anticipation of the change of season to vata time of year, and the change in the way we have been asked to live our lives due to the pandemic all point to the creation of a void within, a place that some habitual way of living was removed and space was created, and in this space vata now resides. My innate nature is made up of some vata, so there is air and ether elements and qualities already circulating within me and many of you.
As I mentioned we are moving into the fall, the vata time of year. In short vata is the ayurvedic dosha that is made up of air and ether elements and consists of those qualities which are, cold, light, dry, static, flowing, rough, hard. The tastes of food and drinks that are astringent, bitter and pungent aggravate vata. Vata is soothed, reduced, by sweet, sour, and salty tastes, but we aren’t quite in the depths of fall yet so careful with the summer/pitta aggravating tastes of sour, salty and pungent (pitta, fire, summer season, is soothed by the tastes sweet, bitter, and astringent).
I’m bringing in vata and my anxiousness into this post to highlight how much I and we all could benefit from knowing our ojas level and how to create healthy balanced ojas. The practices that increase our ojas also happen to balance and even reduce vata, the air qualities within. Modern life often gives many particularly this time of year excess vata elements.
Regular patterns and rhythms in our day help to ground vata and build ojas, time meditating, sitting in nature, doing yoga, having a cup of tea, taking a warm bath, going to bed at a decent time and a regular time, sitting down to eat, chewing food well, resting when tired, these practices are some of the recommendations to boost ojas but also calm vata, bringing that air element into the roots.
Picture this, ojas is like a container, a container that holds within it prana and tejas. Prana is the circulation of the life force we bring into our bodies through food’s life force and the stimulations we bring in through our 5 senses. Prana is often referred to as the life force itself. Prana is the life force within us. Tejas is the flame that ignites our inner fire, responsible for our focus, our intelligence, self-discipline, and mental clarity. Tejas is our inner flame driving us through our day. Ojas is the container that holds prana and tejas within.
This container when we are run down or burned out is quite thin if not broken completely and in that case it’s unable to properly hold prana and tejas. We can have too much intake (excess) of stimulus through our senses overloading our prana within or we can have too little (deficient) prana, by eating dead food and processed food, and taking in stimulus devoid of life force. We can have too much (excess) fire, an excess of drive and motivation that creates so much fire within that we have heat radiating out through our temper and mood. We can have burned out our flame by too much prana in the container or have a lack of (deficient) fire altogether leaving us with no motivation, focus or clarity in our mind. Different scenarios can effect the sustenance and quality of the container that is ojas. I often say ojas is like our reserve energy. It is fed by a healthy reproductive system but it isn’t a stand alone, we can do great service to our reserve strength by encouraging healthy ojas. Having a healthy ojas helps shield us from imbalance, stress, emotional upheaval and disease.
A note on excess kapha, earth and water heavy elements, often manifesting as slow metabolism, slow digestion, sluggish mind. If you may have excess kapha be sure to sip hot water through the day and/or have digestive teas. You can still partake in the ojas building foods listed below if you have excess kapha or if you have excess white coating on your tongue…what to do is sip some warm water every 15 minutes through the day to boost metabolism, to gently cleanse, and to warm and melt damp kapha and encourage a better functioning system. But most of us could use the building of ojas. Many have depleted ojas and show signs of low ojas in their physical imbalances. This is modern western life’s toll on the body and when unhealthy habits have taken a hold, doing a disservice to our over all wellness.
Many foods of fall also help to build ojas.
Ojas building foods:
Dates wrapped in coconut: I pit dates, mush them up well, you could food process them, then I roll them in shredded coconut
Almonds soaked in water for a few hours, you can then ideally pop the skin off and add a little salt to taste maybe a drizzle of honey
Pitted dates soaked in almond milk (eat the dates drink the milk)
Sweet potatoes with cinnamon or nutmeg
Well soaked and multiple times rinsed and drained mung beans and rice aka kitcharee, look up a recipe there are so many. I posted one a long while back and will again soon.
Ojas building activities:
So Hum meditation AM and PM (internally say the sound So when you inhale and internally say the sound Hum when you exhale, this is saying I am this, I am this moment and it calms and steadies the mind, helping to activate the parasympathetic nervous system).
Nadi Shodhana—Alternate nostril breath (using right thumb and right ring finger, close right nostril with right thumb, breathe out left, inhale in the left nostril, lift thumb and close left nostril with right ring finger, exhale out right nostril, inhale in right nostril, lift ring finger, press thumb down, exhale out left side. That’s one round, do at least 5 round 2x a day, work up to doing this for 3 minutes). Rest and breathe normally when finished.
Restorative yoga—one pose is sitting with legs forward and out to a V—Upavistha Konasana—then have pillows piled in front of you, or a chair in between the knees, or a bolster with a couple blankets rolled on top. Lean forward and rest your head and your arms. We draw our focus and our senses within with forward folds, forward folds cultivate pratyahara (one of Payanjali’s 8 limbs) a turning inward away from external stimulus, this withdrawal takes our focus deeply within and enkindles our inner light. Forward folds helps calm the sympathetic nervous systems, relaxes the body, and builds ojas. Practice this AM and PM.
Slow walks in nature by water.
Sip tea, ginger tea for a digestive boost (but not if you are taking blood thinners), peppermint tea (not if you have high blood pressure), or chamomile tea.
Add a pinch of turmeric, a pinch of cardamom or nutmeg, 1/2 tsp of coconut oil or ghee to warmed milk for a relaxing and ojas building elixir.
Fill up your internal cup and you will find a higher level of functioning in your day, better sustenance to deal with life and the events that can arise, and you will feel more anchored in this upcoming vata season. Foster the health of your roots, digestive wellness, and the rest of your body will follow to heal imbalance.