Ojas is a vital substance within the body that governs the immune system, the aging process, glowing skin, mood, digestion, quality of sleep, spirituality, and our overall sense of strength and wellbeing. Ojas is essential for optimal mental, physical and spiritual health, maintaining a toxin-free internal environment. In short, ojas is the essence of vitality. Sounds good, right?
Considering that Ayurveda is the science of longevity, the maintenance and production of healthy ojas is its fundamental aim. But as a subtle essence that cannot be measured by instrumental means, how do we know the state of our ojas, and how can we increase it? This article aims to uncover the mystery of this crucial element of wellness.
Ojas is the most refined byproduct of a perfectly functioning digestive system. In fact, ojas is so subtle and refined that it cannot be seen under a microscope. As the most subtle essence of the physical body, the traditional Ayurvedic texts describe ojas as the lamp lighting the way between the physical and spiritual planes. However, whereas it only takes 24 hours to digest our food, it takes a whole 30 days for it to be refined into ojas. Unfortunately there are many things that can occur within 30 days to undermine this production, leaving many of us lacking the essential ojas we need to maintain optimal health and happiness.
One of the main obstacles to the production of ojas is ama (toxins). Ama is the result of a weakened digestive system. It is cool and sticky in nature, causing blockages within the bodily channels, interrupting cellular communication and restricting the passage of ojas.
The health of ojas is entirely connected to the health of the digestive system. During the 30 days it takes to produce ojas, the nutrients from our food are carried through the seven layers of bodily tissues (the dhatus), each one getting progressively deeper. Only once all seven of the tissues have been nourished does ojas begin to be formed. If the digestive system is weak, or if we are not eating a diet that is sufficiently nutrient dense, then the nourishment will not be able to penetrate all seven dhatus and still have a reserve to produce ojas.
Avoid activities that deplete ojas
This may seem an obvious place to start. However, it is easier said than done! Some of the more emotionally-based ojas-depleting culprits, such as stress or grief, can at times feel unavoidable. Other activities require a little more restraint. Many of the austerities undertaken by religious orders, such as chastity and sobriety, are done in order to store up reserves of ojas in order to benefit from its spiritually elevating properties.
Eat good quality, seasonal and freshly prepared foods
Ayurveda considers that food is medicine. The qualities of ojas are cool, smooth, heavy, and sweet, therefore the foods that build ojas share these qualities. It is best to eat warm and cooked meals that are easy to digest and are nourishing.
Foods to favour: almonds (and other oily nuts), avocados, bananas, dates, kale, leafy greens, mung beans, spinach, sweet potatoes, tofu, and zucchini.
Foods to avoid/decrease: cold, raw or undercooked foods, processed or refined foods, fast food, fried food, alcohol, caffeine and other stimulants
Be mindful of your eating habits
Support the digestive system by eating slowly and mindfully in a quiet place without distraction. By giving your full attention to the process of eating and thorough chewing, agni (the digestive fire) will be ignited and support healthy digestion. Over time this will increase the production of ojas.
Take ojas-building supplements
These include chyawanprash, ashwagandha, amalaki, shatavari, ghee, and honey
Drink ojas milk (golden milk)
Ojas milk is an age-old recipe combining ojas-building ingredients to boost the immune system and promote vitality. The quantities and some of the ingredients will vary from person to person. In part this depends upon your personal taste preferences, so feel free to play around with the recipe. Here is my personal favorite recipe:
(makes 1 cup)
1 cup whole organic cows milk*
1 or 2 (depending on preference) chopped dates
5 soaked almonds
¼ tsp turmeric powder
3 cardamom pods
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of ground black pepper
¼ tsp ashwagandha powder
Pinch of saffron
*this can be substituted with coconut or almond milk if you are avoiding dairy
Place all the ingredients (except the saffron if you are using it) into a saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer. After two minutes remove from the heat and spoon out the cardamom pods. If you prefer a smooth and creamy drink, you can now blend the mixture. Pour into your favourite mug and now add the saffron if you are using it.
Enjoy this ojas milk every night before bed to promote deep sleep. If drunk consistently over a period of two to three months, ojas levels will be noticeably increased.
Healthy sleeping patterns
Aim to get 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Be mindful not to sleep excessively and to sleep in rhythm with the natural cycles — going to bed early and rising early. Developing a relaxing nightly routine, free from electronic devices, will encourage deeper and more healing sleep.
Persistent negativity can be as depleting as malnutrition. Make sure you’re taking sufficient time throughout your day to rejuvenate, connect with yourself, and do things you genuinely enjoy. Spend time in nature, visit with friends and loved ones, and just do what makes you happy! This is essential for staying healthy physically, what to speak of mentally and spiritually.
Balancing yoga, breathing, and meditation
When restoring depleted ojas, it is important to give the body and mind as much nourishment as possible. Practices that promote a sense of internal peace and harmony help to create an environment conducive to the production of ojas. Try gentle and balancing forms of yoga such as hatha, yin, and restorative yoga. You can also try pranayama, including practices such as nadi shodhana and three-part breathing.