If you’ve been interested in Ayurveda for any amount of time then you’ve likely heard about Ojas (OH-jas)
And most likely what you’ve heard is that you need to build them up to increase your vitality (especially if you are prone to sickness or frailty).
But what exactly are “ojas”? What do they do for us – and how do they do it?
- Ojas is one of the three “subtle” or “vital” essences within the body – the other two being prana and tejas. (Kapha rules ojas, while vata rules prana and pitta rules tejas)
- Ojas is a vital, energy that, with the help of prana, controls important life functions. It is our primal vigor and maintains the auto-immune system, mental intelligence and is the vital energy that governs our hormonal balance. When translated the world ojas literally means vitality or bodily strength. Balanced ojas is necessary for biological strength and immunity.
- We don’t have much ojas – the ancient texts say that in a healthy person has only eight drops of Ojas stored in the heart – yet what we have goes a long way and is considered the prime energy reserve for the whole body. When sickness arises in the body or mind this is a sign of depletion or inhibited production of ojas.
- Ojas is considered to be the most refined by-product of digestion and is a highly subtle substance that borders between the mind and body. It is the pinnacle essence (eighth tissue) that only forms as a result of the production of the seven forms of bodily tissues (also called dhatus). It is the subtle essence of the reproductive system and all the vital secretions.
- It’s important to note that our ojas can be considerably diminished even if we’re not experiencing overt sickness. This is likely the case if you are feeling generally stressed out, fatigued and in need of stimulants to keep you operating smoothly throughout the day.
Ojas and the mind
On the psychological level ojas is responsible for compassion, love, peace and creativity.
Through certain techniques like pranayama, meditation, and tantra it is possible to transform ojas into spiritual strength. And if thoroughly developed the power of spiritually re-directed ojas can create a potent and protective energetic aura around the crown chakra.
How do ojas get depleted?
Depletion occurs when we are using our ojas up at a faster rate than we are creating them.
Basically more ojas = better health, longevity, virility, resilience and resistance to disease.
But many of us are depleting them more quickly than we are making them.
For one, it takes time and energy for our bodies to create, refine and accumulate ojas. And in the frantic pace of modern life many of us just don’t slow down enough to provide ourselves with either time or energy.
Depletion can also occur if our production of ojas isn’t running smoothly, likely due to some form of digestive or assimilation dysfunction.
Here’s a list of things that use up, diminish and deplete ojas:
- Stress, anxiety, fear, worry, sorrow, and grief
- Lack of sleep
- Strong, bright, overpowering experiences and sensations
- Excessive computer / television use
- Loss of vital fluids (especially blood and semen)
- Excessive sexual activity (for both sexes)
- Use of drugs and stimulants (medical and recreational)
- Excess, pretended and repressed emotions
- Lack of deep sleep, disturbed sleep
- Devitalized food
- Dwelling in unnatural environments
- Excessive exercising
- Excess and/or incorrect meditation/breathing practices
Signs and symptoms of depleted ojas include:
- Reduced immunity
- Chronic sickness
- Degenerative diseases
- Chronic anxiety, fearfulness
- Chronic fatigue and low energy
- Nervous system disorders
- Mentally impaired
- Easily distracted
- Disorders of the sense organs
- Premature aging
To contrast this, here are some signs of a person who has strong ojas:
- Attractive (from an energetic standpoint) and welcoming
- Calm, confident and collected demeanor
- Calming and spontaneous smile
- Lustrous eyes
- Full of spiritual energy and power
- Patient, strong mental endurance and stability
Ojas and the doshas
Ojas is considered the subtle energy of the kapha dosha or water in the body, particularly the essence of the reproductive fluid.
Aggravation of kapha displaces ojas and aggravated ojas displaces kapha. When kapha is low, due to high vata and.or pitta our ojas will be affected.
Kapha disorders that are related to displaced ojas include:
- looseness of bones and joints
- numbness of limbs
Vata (and prana) too becomes aggravated when ojas are displaced.
Depleted ojas can trigger vata related conditions such as:
- general weakness
- inability of the senses to perceive
and in extreme cases,
- loss of consciousness
How do we build up ojas?
Ojas (as well as prana and tejas) are built up in two ways.
- By digesting/assimilating the nutrients we take into the body as food, supplements, heat and air
- On a more subtle level they are fed by the impressions we take in through the senses. Ojas in particular are fed through the senses of taste and smell
- Spiritual practices, like pranayama and meditation, are also highly effective
Herbs and substances that increase ojas
Most of our ojas are built up through the foods we ingest.
Certain foods and herbs, like the ones listed below, have unusually high amounts of high quality essence and nutrition.
Making a habit of increasing your intake of these foods and certain herbs will ensure that your ojas are strong and giving you an increased sense of strength and vitality.
Highly revered in Ayurveda, ghee helps to enhance ojas. It’s of particular value when combined with others herbs since it enhances their effects and improves absorption.
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Milk is another potent nutritional source of ojas building materials. And, like ghee, it acts as a carrier for other herbs and enhances their effects.
Colostrum is an even more potent nutritional source for ojas building. Colostrum, for those that don’t know, is an nutritionally enhanced milk that comes only from the first couple milkings after a calf is born. It is potent to ensure the baby’s survival.
Shilajit is a potent tonifying, strengthening and rejuvinative that is supportive of all three doshas. The substance itself is a mineral dense, almost tar like substance, that consists of many thousand year old forests that have been compressed and locked into the rocks – like those found in the mountains of the Himalayas. The pitch slowly ooze out of these stones and is collected in small quantities. Shilajit is mostly found in and nearby India.
Ashwaganhda is a highly prized nourishing nervine tonic. It promotes energy, strength and vitality. It’s recommended in instances of weakness, emaciation, poor memory, insomnia – essentially all health issues that are related to low ojas.
Shatavari is a potent rejuvenative, nutritive tonic with adaptogenic and nervine qualities. It is highly sattvic and nourishing, especially for woman. It cools and soothes while enhancing immunity, promoting mental clarity and calming stress.
Guduchi is a renowned rejuvenative (rasayana) that enhances immunity, longevity, energy and vitality. It increases resilience and resistance to both emotional and physical stresses. It’s also anti-inflammatory and probiotic.
Mucuna Pruriens (Kapikacchu)
Mucuna has had a surge in popularity outside of the Ayurvedic realm in recent years, so you might already be acquainted with this powerful herb. It’s fame has come for it’s use as a remedy for Parkinson’s disease, as the seed contains the compound L-dopa (a precursor to dopamine).
Mucuna is a great tonic for the nervous system, especially for those with Vata disorders. It’s also a strong aphrodisiac and reproductive tonic, with use for low libido, impotence, low sperm count and infertility.
Pine pollen, though not exclusive to Ayurvedic medicine, is a nutrient dense super-food that’s extracted from the Masson Pine Tree. It’s been used for thousands of years in Ancient China as an anti-aging and restorative tonic. It builds ojas, balances hormones, and improves endurance and strength.
Ojas from food (and the importance of digestion)
We’re able to get an ojas boost from potent sources like the herbs listed above, but most of our ojas are distilled from the food we eat on a regular basis. In the same way, when we eat fresh, unprocessed foods, microscopic amounts of their essence accumulate over time through the process of healthy digestion and become ojas.
Processed and denatured foods have little potential for ojas building, while fresh, unprocessed foods contain potent nutrition that can accumulate overtime through digestion and eventually develop into ojas.
The health of your digestive system is important to0 – because if your digestion is hindered then ojas creation will be stunted even when high quality foods are being consumed. If the digestive process is disturbed, the essence of the foods will not be extracted and very little, if any, ojas will be distilled.
According to Ayurveda, the entire digestive process takes thirty days to complete. Within that time, not only is food ingested and eliminated, but nutrients from the food are used to build what is known as the seven major tissues of the body. The culmination of this process is the production of ojas.
In Ayurveda diet and digestive health are of upmost importance. Following a proper diet will keep disease at bay, promote longevity and support the building of ojas and general health.
Practices that increase ojas
Key to the functioning of ojas, prana, and tejas is the reproductive fluid, which functions as their container in the physical body. It is the ultimate product of the food we take in and holds our strongest energies.
At the moment of orgasm ojas are dissipated and dispelled. Because of this those who indulge excessively in sex and masturbation will quickly diminish their stores of ojas. Strive to balance with meditation
This is especially so for men – as sex often results in the loss of the vital essence semen.
Ojas, after all, are a very refined, life giving substance – just like semen. Both are highly potent substances with large amounts of life force infused in them, and much of the same energy goes into production of semen as does ojas.
Ultimately, procreation is always lingering as the most import concern in the minds of our species due to powerful instinctive drives involved. If we ceaselessly indulge our procreative instincts our body will sacrifice it’s own resilience and vitality in an effort to keep up with the perceived (real or not) opportunities for procreation and continuation of the species.
If we are trying to conceive it is important to still pace ourselves and not be careless with our sexual energy expense. According to Ayurveda, a strong, healthy seventh level of tissue (dhatu) and abundant ojas must exist in order for conception to occur and to produce a healthy child.
Chronic use of pornography is a common cause of oja depletion. Ayurvedic and Taoist practitioners in the East have (for thousands of years) recommended the conservation of semen as tantamount to maintaing health, strength and the as a catalyst energy for spiritual practices.
Ojas is deeply connected to our peace of mind.
- It supports and nourishes all higher states of comments
- It connects and sustains our physical-mental-spiritual well-being
- Itprovides us with an inner level of calm
Spiritual practices, such as insight meditation, allow us to slow down and build up ojas. But spiritual practice is valuable for more than just regenerating ojas; it also ensures that our regenerated ojas are balanced.
Having an excess of unbalanced ojas can also be problematic, leading to heaviness and dullness of the mind, as well as complacently and an unwillingness to change or grow.
In addition to meditation you could practice yoga, tantra, prayer, develop emotional awareness, self-study.
Other soothing and oja balancing activities include deep sleep, relaxation, the right use of colors, aromas and gems. Emotions to nurture and develop include the virtues of faith, love, receptivity, compassion, and understanding.