Ojas: The Power of Immunity in Yoga and Ayurveda

Ojas is the ultimate resort of strength, patience and endurance for body and mind. Ojas is cultivated in Ayurveda for disease prevention, deep healing, rejuvenation and longevity. It is cultivated in Yoga for inner strength, determination and vitality, steadiness and focus of mind and prana.

 

Ojas is the essence of all seven bodily tissues of plasma, blood, muscle, fat, bone, nerve and reproductive. As such, Ojas is the ultimate product of the long term nutritional process and holds the seed energy of the entire body. It is most connected to the subtle tissues of nerve and reproductive, indicating its influence on the mind and its creative force and its ability to hold Prana. Yet is gives muscular strength and physical stamina overall.

 

Ojas is the higher essence of Kapha dosha, the biological water humor, which is the main nutritional support of the tissues, most of which are Kapha (watery) in nature. Ojas protects all the seven tissues from within as their essence. In addition, we posses a certain inborn Ojas, our congenital strength and vitality. This varies at an individual basis and gets reduced through the aging process. We have eight drops of the higher Ojas in the heart behind all the tissues, but it has the power to pervade the entire body, just as a single drop of sandalwood can pervade the entire body with its fragrance.

 

The state of our Ojas is indicated by our long term stability and continuity for positive energies and actions of body and mind. It provides the inner power to take us through challenges, difficulties and dangers, particularly those that are unexpected or prolonged, without wavering or losing our strength and composure.

 

This deep seated energy of Ojas can be depleted, which can lead to the breakdown of physical or psychological immunity, loss of resistance to disease, vulnerability to toxins, and hastening the aging process. Ojas can be weakened by serious or long term diseases and injuries, but stress, overwork and malnutrition over a period of time undermine it.

  • Signs of low Ojas include chronic fatigue, nervous debility, depression, anxiety, insomnia, weakness of the muscles and bones, tremors and loss of body weight. Examining the condition and strength of our Ojas is a key factor of Ayurvedic diagnosis and treatment, as proper Ojas is necessary to keep the doshas in balance, along with holding our organic equilibrium overall.

 


Building Ojas

 

  • Ojas is increased mainly by nutritional factors of nourishing foods and tonic herbs. Ojas-increasing herbs include famous Ayurvedic tonic and rejuvenative agents like ashwagandha, bala, shatavari, amalaki, shilajit , guduchi, and preparations like Chyavan Prash, Brahma Rasayana, Agastya Rasayana and Ashwagandha Lehyam, including certain special guggul preparations. Ayurvedic massage oils like Mahanarayan, Dhanvantaram, Balashwagandha or Kshirabala strengthen it. Relative to supporting Ojas as psychological immunity important herbs are brahmi, manduka parni , tulsi and shankha pushpi, notably Brahmi ghee. Massage oils to the head like Chandanadi aid in psychological immunity, as well as aromas like sandalwood.
  • While spices in themselves do not increase Ojas, they can help extract Ojas from the food, notably turmeric, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, cumin and cloves. Garlic and onions help build Ojas, though their nature is not sattvic.
  • Foods for Ojas include milk, ghee, almonds, cashews, sesame (tahini), as well as root vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams), whole grains (wheat and oats) and dals (like mung) and special foods like lotus root or seeds. or makkhana. Coconut water helps protect Ojas at times of stress and depletion.

 


Prana, Tejas and Ojas

 

Ojas  is part of a triad of subtle energies as Prana, Tejas and Ojas. Tejas, our inner vital warmth and radiance, arises out of Ojas as its fuel, like that of a ghee lamp. Ojas is the fuel for our higher Agnis, the powers of Tejas and Tapas in Yoga, including the Yogagni.

Good Prana, the higher Vata component, is necessary to activate Ojas, which as a watery factor requires to be circulated properly. Similarly, good Ojas is necessary to sustain Prana, as Ojas can hold a deeper level of vital force, our second wind as it were. Ojas supporting the lungs and heart helps us with deeper pranayama practices and kumbhaka. Without proper Ojas to hold it, strong pranayama practices can disturb the nervous system.

 


Ojas and Immunity today

 

Disturbed electrical energies from the environment overall deplete Ojas, just as they deplete immunity and increase stress. This means that most of us, particularly with high tech urban lifestyles, are living in a condition in which our Ojas is low or irregular. Many of us are ungrounded, alienated from nature, lacking in composure, and easily disturbed or irritated. Yet Ojas requires upon a sattvic and disciplined lifestyle (yoga sadhana), with regular meals, exercise and meditation. We cannot simply imbibe from the outside, though it can be renewed through retreats in nature and rejuvenation practices.

The current pandemic reflects low or disrupted Ojas at individual and collective levels, weak immunity and greater vulnerability. If we work at strengthening our Ojas, we can protect and strengthen our immune system for future challenges, such as this high tech era makes us more vulnerable to and increase with age. Strengthening Ojas remains a primary therapy for immunity, harmony and wellbeing overall. It should be considered as part of all Ayurvedic treatment.

 


Ojas and Yoga

 

Ojas is strongly connected to the mind and nervous system and gives steadiness, attention and focus, grounding our higher awareness. Without Ojas we lack the stamina for the yogic disciplines and the flow of higher yogic energies like Kundalini Shakti. That is why great Yogis put an emphasis on Ojas. Bhakti Yoga is said to increase it by helping us to surrender our ego, which is the basis of weak psychological immunity. Ojas in the brain and mind sustains deep meditation. Ojas is strongly connected to the root or Muladhara or root chakra as it holds the Earth element in the body and mind. Without its grounding power the volatile energies of body and mind cannot be held or concentrated.

If Ojas is strong at a psychological level, we will not suffer from depression, anxiety, fear, anger or emotional ups and downs. We will be resistant to flattery and insult, and all the myriad attractions and repulsions of the external world, possessing our own inner contentment. Our mental energy will follow a steady calm flow like a wide river, not a quickly dispersed agitated current.

Ojas is symbolized by the bull, including Lord Shiva’s bull Nandi and Indra’s bull that holds the supreme strength in the Vedas. OM represents the power of Ojas at the level of primal sound. Many are the secret powers of Ojas that we can begin to explore through Yoga and Ayurveda.

 

Vamadeva Shastri

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