The Coronavirus Pandemic shows a breakdown in our collective immunity at both physical and psychological levels, what relates to Ojas in Yoga and Ayurveda. Below we examine the role of Ojas as our primary energy in sustaining immunity and holding a deeper Prana, along with related factors of Yoga and Ayurveda. This is not to substitute for taking necessary medicines to curb the coronavirus and mainstream medical recommendations.
Note we are not proclaiming some doomsday here, but looking at the long term side-effects of our current rapidly developing technological civilization. The ability of viruses to spread is increased by the interconnectedness and vulnerability that links the world by way of travel and communication. What happens in one part of the world quickly affects the world as a whole and cannot be ignored. We must start thinking and acting with a planetary vision.
Ojas, Our Primary Energy in Life
The main force behind our immune system is called Ojas in Ayurveda, which refers to the essence of all our bodily tissues and the ultimate resort of both our nutrition and our genetic inborn strength. Ojas sustains and holds a deeper Prana within us. Ojas can be increased by proper food and herbs as well as by natural living on all levels, aligned with a yogic and Ayurvedic lifestyle.
Special Ojas-increasing herbs in Ayurveda include ashwagandha, shatavari, bala, amalaki, haritaki, brahmi, manduka parni, tulsi and even common turmeric and ginger. Ayurveda has these herbs available not just as powders or pills, but as made into powerful medical oils (tailams), ghee (ghritams), gugguls, ferments like asavas and arishtas, and herbal jellies and confections like prash (Chyavan Prash) and leyams (Ashwagandha Leyam). This pharmaceutical wealth remains a great resource for all to access. Ayurvedic oil massage and steam therapies (snehana and swedana) also work dramatically to increase our immunity. Many special Ayurvedic oils use Ojas-increasing herbs like Balashwagandha. So do Ayurvedic ghees like Brahmi ghee. These Ayurvedic products can be ordered on line at various Ayurvedic herbal suppliers.
Dietary factors to increase Ojas are similar to a Vata-reducing diet and include nutritive food items, nuts and seeds, root vegetables, whole grains like rice and oats, beans and dals, dairy products, and oils like sesame, olive and ghee. Food should be freshly cooked. Processed, frozen and most restaurant food should be avoided. Simple Ayurvedic kitcharee with rice and mung beans is a good primary staple food. Of course, the individual’s dietary needs and inclinations must be carefully considered. Such herbal and dietary factors are the subject of an entire article in its own right, and are best done along with consulting an Ayurvedic practitioner. Weak immunity often involves high Vata Dosha that also must be carefully considered.
Yoga Practices for Immunity and Prana
Yoga practices also help in increasing immunity, Ojas and Prana, as well as creating a positive physical and psychological environment. The performance of Agnihotra and Vedic havans (fire offerings) purifies the house or the dwelling. Can be done morning and eventing. Puja is similarly very protecting, especially the use of incense to clear the air, along with the lighting of ghee or oil lamps. These are key practices of Karma Yoga in Hindu thought.
Pranayama is very important for strengthening Prana and immunity, particularly done first thing in the morning and before sleep at night. But it should be slow and deep, not simply rapid and forceful. Alternate nostril breathing or nadi shodhana is very good. Pratyahara, including withdrawal from excessive media and electrical stimulation, is helpful as well, including aroma therapy and being in nature. Proper exercise and Asana is essential, but of a gentle sattvic nature, not excessive exertion (though it is best to avoid larger group classes during the virus threat).
There are many protective mantras that one can do, particularly as part of Bhakti Yoga, whether to Devi (Sarasvati, Lakshmi, Parvati), Shiva, Rama, Krishna, Hanuman, Skanda or Ganesha, or to the guru, the five elements of Nature, our own inner Self and the Supreme Brahman or Cosmic Reality, whether it is Om namah Shivaya! Om namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya! or whatever arouses one’s devotion. Guidance by the guru or athentic tradition is always helpful for specific practices.
We see a disturbing breakdown in the psychological immunity of people individually and collectively. Psychological immunity is indicated by our ability to withstand emotional difficulties, opposition and conflict, stress and uncertainty in our lives, including social and political unrest, which few people seem to have today. This is another aspect of Ojas but at the level of the mind.
Strong psychological immunity is indicated by detachment, self-discipline, focus of mind and the capacity for introspection, as developed by concentration, mantra and meditation in Yoga. Yoga, mantra and meditation also increase our psychological immunity and help us be less psychologically vulnerable to our current increasingly divided, stressful and disrupted environment. Ayurvedic herbs for the mind increase our immunity like brahmi, manduka parni, jatamamsi, shankha pushpi, ashwagandha and haritaki.
Our current media based culture tends to weaken our psychological immunity, making us so outward and reactive in our views that we lose the ability to contact the peace of our own inner Being and Divine Self, being imbalanced by every problem in the world around us. This breakdown of psychological immunity is perhaps as dangerous as the breakdown of physical immunity and both go together—and both depend upon our connection with nature and a healthy biosphere and with our own deeper Divine essence.
Outer difficulties push us back on our inner strength. We have been relying too much on external factors for our wellbeing, happiness or protection, including drugs that weaken our immunity and make our environment toxic. We must recognize that our ultimate strength lies within our own consciousness for which this current human life is but one episode in a greater cosmic existence that we are always part of. We must come together for the sake of all humanity, all nature and the universal life, which are always there to support us.
Vamadeva (Dr. David Frawley)