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Modern Woes, Ancient Wisdom Balanced Ojas and the Prevention of Diseases Caused by Chronic Stress and Lifestyle By: Katharine Tabb

Introduction

It is common knowledge that modern life and modern medicine affords people opportunities like never before. People are living longer, and many diseases that were once untreatable are now curable or manageable long term.  Due to amazing achievements in modern medicine fear of sickness or dying from health epidemics like smallpox or the plague has become almost non-existent in first world countries. As stated in Stress, Steroids and Ojas by Kenneth Walton, there has been a “vast reduction in communicable diseases and mortality rates in the modern world from improvements in sanitation and food supply”19. Yet, despite all these achievements in modern medicine people are still getting sick. And health care costs continue to rise. Walton reports, “In recent decades the proportions of the economy going to medical care has risen steadily in advantaged countries”19. According to Walton, diseases that are actually the most prevalent in first world developed countries are now ones related to lifestyle and stress19.   According to Dr. David Blyweiss up to 80% of doctor visits are stress related4. 

Stress has been recognized as a factor in disease, but only recently has modern medicine begun to pay closer attention to this problem.  Stress as defined by the Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing and Allied Health is, “the sum of the biological reactions to any adverse stimulus, physical, mental or emotional, internal or external, that tends to disturb the homeostasis of an organism. Should these reactions be inappropriate, they may lead to disease states”11. According to Walton, chronic stress places too much of a load on homeostatic or adaptive mechanisms. And this heavy load on bodily mechanisms weakens the body’s immunity to environmental and physical challenges, which then results in ill health and disease19.  The body houses thousands of homeostatic control mechanisms. A few key ones include: regulation of body temperature, nourishment of cells, elimination of wastes and balance of hormones11. Chronic stress can lead to the breakdown of any one of these regulations if sustained for too long, or resistance becomes too weakened. 

Another accepted fact of modern times is the quickening pace and intensity of life itself. People move faster, technology moves faster, information and stimuli are constantly at one’s fingertips.  As Kester Marshall writes in Stress: An Ayurvedic Perspective, “Life is pretty busy these days…bordering on frantic. We cram more in than ever before and yet somehow still feel like we never have enough time to do what we really want…”11.  This frenzied pace of life, and hectic need to get it all done is not a minor matter, it is actually making us sick. As Kester says, “we are all, literally, stressing ourselves sick”11.

So, what can be done about this new “stress epidemic” in both our own personal health, and in the larger community? Walton believes increased attention on disease prevention will have the most significant effect on lowering rising costs. Walton believes, “further gains in health will likely come through substantial reduction of individual stress and improvements in lifestyle”19.

Currently, though, medical and health care costs continue to rise. If as Walton suggests, disease prevention is one key to eliminating high costs in health care, and stress is an accepted major factor in illness and disease then why are costs increasing?  According to Walton, “these areas have proven particularly resistant to the approaches of modern medicine due in part to the incomplete understanding of the role of stress in disease and how to prevent or deal with the deleterious effects of stress”19.

Clearly Western medicine needs to look elsewhere for solutions to disease prevention, namely diseases caused by stress and stressful lifestyles.  Ayurveda, and its ancient wisdom, may hold the answer. Ayurveda is a holistic approach to health that many scholars agree is the oldest healing science practiced today. Its core principle is to prevent and treat illness by maintaining balance in the body and in the mind.  “Ayurveda is a system of medicine that is more than five thousand years old and works primarily by making the body or host strong, which consequently prevents and treats disease”2. The Ayurvedic classic, the Caraka Samhita says that the very object of Ayurveda is to maintain the equilibrium of the dhatus (tissues) of the body19. “The fact that ‘prevention is better than cure’ is well recognized in Ayurveda as its foremost objective is maintenance and promotion of the health of the healthy”1.

In Ayurveda, balancing dhatus, which are the tissues of the body, is crucial to disease prevention. In Western medicine it might be called a “homeostatic balance or a balanced state of functioning of the homeostatic mechanisms”19. A disturbance in the equilibrium of the body, and the dhatus, can arise from external and internal stressors, which can lead to disease in the tissues, in the body and in the mind.  The Caraka Samhita states that some of these stressors include, “wrong utilization, non-utilisation and excessive utilisation of time, mental faculties and objects of sense organs”19.  In present society this excessive use of time and mental faculties comes in the form of endless social media, internet, television and external stimuli from all forms of modern technology. Working more, moving faster and constantly being plugged in leads to increased chronic stress, illness and disease caused by the breakdown of a stressed out and overworked body. The ancient wisdom of the Caraka Samhita is still extremely prevalent for modern times. What to do with this advice, and how to proceed is the next step. If modern medicine investigates Ayruveda, it will see this holistic science can provide the answers to the questions the West should be asking. 

According to Ayurveda, a key element in maintaining harmony, and preventing disease, is cultivating and balancing ojas, an energetic material found within the physical body and the mental body. The dhatus, or bodily tissues, arise from ojas and collective ojas is the name for the pure essence of the dhatus9. Ojas has been compared to a subtle glue or cement that “binds body, mind, and spirit into a bounded and contained functional whole”14. Sebastian Pole says that ojas has a special place in Ayurveda because, “its quality and quantity have a direct effect on the quality of life”15. “…Ojas is the seed behind all nourishment and creativity”15. Simply, ojas is essential for a body’s vitality and immunity9. 

It seems then that Western medicine could greatly benefit from grasping a deeper knowledge of what ojas is, and how to balance it physically and mentally. Understanding ojas could offer Western medicine successful alternatives to help patients manage stress, live healthier lifestyles and prevent physical and mental illnesses. Perhaps ojas is one key to increasing modern medicine’s ability to prevent disease, lower health care costs and educate patients on the importance of stress reduction. So, then, what exactly is ojas?

What is Ojas?

Ojas is defined as: the bio-energetic bodily material that contains the life force (prana) and serves the vital functions that maintain the body’s energy reserves and proper immune status14. 

The ancient classical text the Caraka Samhita describes ojas as:

“It is the Ojas which keeps all the living beings nourished and refreshed.
There can be no life without Ojas.
Ojas marks the beginning of the formation of embryo. It is the nourishing fluid from the embryo. It enters the heart right at the stage of the embryo’s initial formation.
Loss of Ojas amounts to the loss of life itself.
It sustains the life and is located in the heart.
It constitutes the essence of all the Dhatus (tissues)”6.

In the Caraka Samhita it also says that, “Ojas is the first thing to be created in the body of all living beings. It is ghee coloured, it tastes like honey and smells like roasted puffed rice”15.

Ojas is a “superfine biological substance, and the biological strength of the tissues depends on it”9. According to Vasant Lad, it is formed “during the biosynthesis of bodily tissue”9. Ojas is not just a concept, but is an actual biological matter which includes, “albumin, globulin, and many hormones”9. As the body’s vital essence, Dr. Frank Ninivaggi considers it to be “transitional between the physical and the energetic spheres within the body”14. Many Ayurvedic writers have said that ojas is the “nexus substance between consciousness and matter"14. Some also regard ojas as a highly rarefied tissue14.  In her article, Ojas- The Origin on Vitality Dr. Bhaswati Bhattacharya says that classical Ayurveda describes ojas as the eighth dhatu, or tissue, of the body. She writes that it is “composed of the best essence of all the tissues, dhatusara ojas”. She says that it is also a “circulating essence, rasatmaka ojas, communicating throughout the body as the paragon of materials needed for vitality”3.

The Caraka Samhita says ojas is located in the heart, called hridaya in Sanskrit, and that it contains several drops of the purest ojas, Para Ojas 14, 6. There are two kinds of ojas: apara ojas and para ojas. Apara ojas is said to be inferior to para ojas9. According to Lad, apara ojas is raw ojas and is found in the body in a quantity that equals a cupped hand.  Apara ojas “can be compared well with immunity”2. Apara ojas nourishes the tissues and is found throughout the body3. Dr. Bhattacharya writes that Ayurvedic scholars believe apara ojas “refers to the circulating antibodies originating from B-cells, which are developed in the bone marrow”3.

Para ojas is 8 drops and is the finer ojas9. It is the superior ojas which is “colloidal in nature, liquid, slimy, cooling, and sweet to the taste- like honey. It smells like roasted rice”9. Para ojas is the “vitality of the person”2. Para ojas is located in the hridaya, or thorax/chest region3. It is believed to circulate through main vessels that go out from the hridaya3. Some have proposed that para ojas refers to “T-cells, which originate in the thymus gland, also located in the thorax”3. In contemporary Ayurveda, specialists have suggested that this heart area may refer to the central nervous system and the function of the hypothalamus region.  According to Dr. Ninivaggi, para ojas may “correlate with the energy of cellular mitochondria” and apara ojas may “be associated with cytoplasmic enzymes that contribute to cell death or the process known as apoptosis”14. 

According to Lad, ojas is also rich in soma, which can be compared to serotonin. It is soma that gives one a “blissful state of consciousness”10. Ayurveda says there is both a cosmic soma and an individual soma10. When this soma is released in samadhi, a state  reached in meditation, it gives a feeling of bliss and contentment10. “Enduring immunity, enduring memory, and the quality of peace of mind or contentment have been considered functions of ojas”14. Healthy ojas in a person equates to good health and prevention of physical ailments. Quality and balanced ojas is essential for a strong immune system. Ojas is our innate immunity; it is our natural ability to fight infection9. 

Ojas & Immunity

There are two types of immunity; one a person is born with and one a person acquires through external factors or vaccinations9. The natural resistance to fight disease in a person is called “innate immunity” or “non specific immunity”7. Innate immunity provides a person with a natural resistance to disease through, “several physical, chemical and cellular approaches”7. Ojas is one’s innate immunity9. According to Halpern, the immune system, “is a physical manifestation of ojas”8. All systems of the body that help to preserve the health of an individual are actually manifestations of ojas8. Ojas protects the health of cells and also helps give cells endurance. Ojas gives cells the ability to function without being affected or changed by external stressors. Ojas is like a container “that holds together every function of the body, no matter how small”8. Dr. Marc Halpern says, “very simply, ojas is the positive force of stability”8.  Ojas is responsible for maintaining immunity and for the span of a person’s life9. Ojas means “vigor and strength” and quality ojas signifies strength in the immune system and resistance to disease14.

Modern medicine includes the “hematopoietic, endocrine, nervous, and digestive systems” when it talks about the immune system.  In Ayurveda, ojas includes these areas and it also includes gamma globulin, which maintains the immunity of the liver9. Ojas is also a part of the endocrine system, as well as the nervous, skeletal, muscular, and digestive systems in the body9. It is said that when all these systems function in equilibrium and harmony then ojas is maintained9.

Disease has power. If the body is weak, and the immune system is suppressed, disease has the ability to enter the body and create illness. It is the power of ojas that works against the power of disease. It is the quality of ojas within the body that will either defend, or allow, disease to enter the body. If ojas is strong then the body will resist the disease. If ojas is low, and the body is weak and met with a virus or bacteria, then the body may develop an illness9. “Ojas has the capacity to counteract the etiological factors or causes of disease”9.

Ojas clearly affects a person’s physical health. Ojas is the vital essence that determines one’s immunity9. Ojas battles decay and aging and those who have quality ojas rarely get sick9. As Halpern states,“…when ojas is strong, no disease can affect the body”8.

Ojas & Physical Health

Ojas plays a crucial role in one’s physical well being. Ojas is responsible for sustaining life and it regulates the body’s physiological balance19. Literally, “the loss of ojas is the loss of life”19. Physical endurance relies on a healthy balance of ojas. It is ojas that is responsible for giving bodily tissues their strength and their ability to resist stress8.  As stated above, ojas is an “energetic container” which holds within it all the functions and systems of the physical body8. When this physical container is healthy and full, then a person is also healthy and full. “When the body is stable, it is capable of resisting stress. The strength of ojas is directly proportional to a person’s resistance to dysfunction or disease”8. 

One can literally see the health of ojas in a person’s body and physique. Quality ojas can be seen in the “lustre of the eyes”15. It can also be seen in bodily strength, in the ability to physically resist disease, in proper functioning digestion, and in healthy fertility15. Other physical signs of healthy ojas include:

  • Glowing Skin
  • Energy upon waking
  • Enthusiasm and joy for living 
  • Body feels light and vibrant
  • Digestion is strong and thorough 
  • No bloating in the stomach or flatulence problems
  • Clear pink tongue with no coating
  • Body odor smells good 
  • Body does not get sick very often20

Ojas provides strength in the body and “maintains compactness of muscles”17. It gives a person the energy to perform numerous activities without becoming fatigued or hindered in any way. It brings clarity to the voice and a healthy complexion to the skin. It allows the karmendriyas (active expressions) and jnanendriyas (cognitive senses) to operate normally17. Ojas is also responsible for the autoimmune system and healthy ojas is vital for longevity5.  Ojas is a person’s energy reserve and is one’s seat of vitality.   “It is the ultimate product of nutrition, digestion and metabolism”14.

Digestion plays a key role in the balance and strength of ojas. We get ojas from the food we eat when digestion is complete and proper20. When the body’s digestive fire burns strong and digestive juices work properly, then broken down food is transformed into ojas18.  Agni influences the quality of ojas and how well the body assimilates and absorbs nutrition9. Agni is “responsible for the correct formation of ojas”15. “A good state of agni can create a good state of ojas or vitality”18. When food is taken into the body at the right time, in the right quantities, and in good combinations then agni will be strong and this enhances ojas. A healthy relationship between agni and ojas results in vibrant health.

On the other hand, when our digestive fire is weak and the body cannot properly convert food into ojas it becomes a toxic substance called ama. Ama is, “the toxic metabolic end product resulting from improper digestion”14. It is undigested food left in the digestive system and a contributing factor in disease14. Ama creates a feeling of heaviness or sluggishness in the body18. “When we have ama in our body then our liver gets congested, we have impurities in the blood, we have weak sense organs, we feel fatigued, and all this can result in multiple digestive and hormonal imbalances18. Physically, ama and poor digestion result in, “premature aging, lack of sensory clarity, chronic diseases, and an overall loss of vitality”18. Ayurvedic texts as old as 5000 years state that disease is caused by impairment of the digestive system3. “They conceived the gut’s digestive fire and the immunity we build as a central pillar in our health”3. Over time, the buildup and presence of ama within the digestive system will deplete ojas and weaken immunity. 

A healthy immune system is dependent upon strong agni, no ama and quality ojas. “If we want perfect health, that means there should be no ama in the body, and whatever there is, should be eliminated”20. When ojas is plentiful and strong, it nourishes the body by circulating freely through the tissues, balancing and harmonizing. When strong, “Ojas is capable of putting the body and mind in a state of bliss”20. 

Ojas is not only essential for physical health, but is also vital for mental health. Quality ojas is responsible for both physical strength and mental stability. 

Ojas & Mental Health

Ayurveda believes the mind plays an equally important role in disease prevention and manifestation. Just as ojas cultivates a state of equilibrium in the body, it also creates a state of equilibrium in the mind. “Ojas is that state of well-being in which the body-mind reflects true strength through resilience…”3. When ojas is strong both physically and mentally, “There is a connection between the mind and the body that develops self-esteem, knowledge of self, and an inner power, which reflects itself through a glow and lustre that is both alluring and attractive”3.

In the article, Mind in Ayurveda, it states that “the body and mind are equally involved in the causation of disease”22. Ayurveda believes disease is caused by a “failure to fulfill the values of life”22.  “Ayurveda tells us that negative and unfocused emotions lurking in the mind are the cause of many diseases.”3. An unfocused mind is much less perceptive and often begins to misperceive the world around it. An unfocused mind allows the intake of many faulty perceptions that can lead to its demise and to disease in the body3. “Ayurveda also tells us that when we become un-centered in our mind and heart, we make choices that are ignorant to our inner wisdom… Whether they are actions, thoughts, or decisions, if they are made when we are not centered, we can make choices that lead to less vitality and loss of strength, mental power, and ojas”3. 

Hence, a calm and stable mind will resist disease, while a turbulent and agitated mind will cause it. Just as in the body, quality ojas cultivates strength and stability in the mind field. “The role of ojas is to stabilize the mind”8. It allows the mind to resist stress and protects it from faulty impressions that enter through the bodily senses and the external world8. Dr. Ninivaggi says ojas “takes away burning desire”14. When ojas is healthy and balanced mentally it helps one to feel confident and grounded. “This grounding arises from the containment of body, mind and spirit that ojas provides”14. Dr. Ninivaggi also says ojas gives a person the ability to mentally endure. It gives a person resistance and protection from emotional conflicts and breakdowns14.

According to Mind in Ayurveda, just as ojas is the essence of digested food, it is also the essence of digested thoughts. When mentally digested, ojas, “provides calmness and supports and nourishes all higher levels of consciousness”22. It is ojas that provides a person with feelings of contentment and peace. It is ojas that protects against feelings of depression and fatigue22. It is ojas that makes the mind strong. “The strongest tool on the planet is the mind. When tuned into the powers of nature, and in harmony on the most subtle levels with the currents of flow in the universe, the mind has the power to correct imbalances, and inspire actions that can change  the planet”3. Quality ojas is vital for mental health and physical well-being. 

It is now evident that ojas plays a vital role in the body’s immunity and in the mind’s mental well-being. What happens then when ojas is not balanced and strong in the body and in the mind? What happens when ojas becomes depleted?

Depleted Ojas

As just stated, ojas is essential to one’s mental and physical health. When ojas gets depleted from the body then disease manifests physically and mentally. The loss of ojas brings decay, aging and illness to the body. In the Caraka Samhita it says, “When ojas is low the person is fearful, weak, worried, has deranged senses, poor complexion, weak mind, is rough and thin”15.

What depletes ojas? What leads to a loss of ojas, or low quality ojas? What causes a body to become full of ama and a mind to be full of discontent? “Factors responsible for the depletion and the weakening of ojas are similar to those considered important in Western medicine for weakened immunity”14. However, Ayurveda places more emphasis than Western medicine on the following aspects of life, which it believes suppresses the immune system and causes the depletion of ojas: “anxiety, anger, depression, envy, physical and emotional trauma, wasting and emaciating diseases of whatever etiology, excessive fasting and excessive physical exertion”14. According to Ayurveda, bacteria are not the primary causative agents, but the result of an imbalance in the human ecosystem, which results in the lack of ojas2.

Ojas is also depleted by: “excessive alcohol, fever, ejaculation, orgasm, overwork, undernourishment, excess sport, depression, sadness, irritability, anger, anxiety and stress”15. Other recognized causes include: poor sleep habits, chronic pain, excessive travel and aging. In the article, Ayurvedic Lifestyle Increases Ojas/Consciousness, it says that people with a pitta (fire) constitution will have a higher tendency to burn out ojas. “When the ojas is burned within an individual, the sweetness is less. There will be a harshness or somewhat difficult nature”23. The article also states that those who hold on to old resentments, angers, criticisms and negativity will deplete ojas supply more rapidly23.

Lad states that quality ojas is dependent upon good relationships, lifestyle choices, and how much trauma and stress are present in daily life9. Stress is a major cause of low ojas. When people become stressed out from over-working, or moving too fast, or when there is conflict, trauma and an over use of external sensors and stimulation, then ojas becomes burnt out or depleted. Too much effort in our daily lives builds stress and tension and depletes ojas. “All efforts build stress and that stress diminishes ojas”9. 

According to the Ashtanga Hridayam, “Ojas undergoes depletion when a person is angry, when hungry, when consuming food even before digesting previously consumed food, when sad, or when excessively under stress”13. It also says in the Ashtanga Hridayam that “when ojas depletes from the body, the individual gets a feeling of fear and weakness, improper functioning of the sense organs, loses the complexion of the skin, the mind does not function properly, and the rookshatha in the body increases”13. The quality of the breath, and prana, inhaled into the body greatly affects ojas. “When there are poor breathing habits or poor air quality then ojas can be depleted”15. 

According to Dr. Bhattacharya, most of the physical imbalances in the body begin with problems in the gut and indigestion. She says, “The origin of many imbalances is in what we eat, when we eat and how we eat”3. She believes the primary source of depleted ojas is from a lack of attention to diet3. Called pathya in Ayurveda, this is how one pays attention to food habits and is crucial to building ojas, or to depleting ojas in the body3. 

Mentally we deplete ojas when we let our thoughts and emotions run wild. “Ayurveda tells us that negative and unfocused emotions lurking in the mind are the cause of many diseases”3. When our mind is too full and too busy it cannot center, or focus, and it becomes too easily attached to the emotions and dramas of life. The mind then cannot slow down, calm down or find peace. It is unable to reach any state of meditation. The mind then disconnects from any power over the body and the body disobeys the mind. Disharmony occurs which leads to illness and disease. “Whether they are actions, thoughts or decisions if they are made when we are not centered, we can make choices that lead to less vitality and loss of strength, mental power and ojas”3. 

The depletion of ojas at any level is harmful to the body and to the mind. It causes discomfort in the physical body, disruptions in the digestive system, constriction in the breath and unrest in the mind. If not addressed, ojas continues depleting itself, resulting in serious, chronic illnesses and disease in the body, even eventually resulting in death. 

Cultivating Ojas 

How do we cultivate ojas? How do we build and balance this vital essence in our body and in our mind? Quality ojas has always been an important aspect of Ayurveda. “The maintenance and optimal amounts and optimal quality of ojas is an important concept in Ayurveda”14. Ayurveda suggests one build and balance ojas by following regular daily routines, being nutritionally balanced, cultivating a healthy digestive fire, and not taking on too many stressful situations in life. Dr. Bhattacharya says a lifestyle which cultivates ojas can be summarized “with an early morning routine, cleaning the senses, understanding how to bathe the body, living in the world and evening routines”3. Ojas is cultivated through daily routines which live in harmony with the body and mind’s natural rhythms and keep one from over doing and creating too much stress and tension physically and mentally.  Along with lifestyle and routine, both the food chosen to eat and how it is eaten is essential to keep digestion healthy and produce ojas. Dr. Bhattacharya says “We have three opportunities a day to medicate ourselves and use food medicinally….we also have three opportunities each day to poison ourselves with food that harms us”3. She believes the choices we make about what we put in our mouth, who we share our meals with, and our present level of awareness about our food and its origin will greatly determine if we build ojas or we deplete ojas3. “Conducive food taken in proper amount at proper time helps in maintenance of agni and enhancement of ojas, consequently resulting in better health and longevity”16.

Foods that are sattvic in nature will enhance ojas. In Ayurveda, sattvic means to have the quality of sattva, which is the “…principal of consciousness, intelligence, harmony, equilibrium,..and lightness”14. Eating sattvic foods will help cultivate lightness, and consciousness, and to build ojas within the tissues and the mind. “Ojas is increased by sattvic foods such as pure milk, ghee and rice. Proper and balanced tastes and the aromatic fragrances found in nature, essential oils and attractive smells feed ojas”14. Other sattvic and ojas building foods include: dates, figs, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, coconut meat, coconut water, coconut milk, whole grains, high antioxidant fruits such as blueberries, cacao and beets and some bone marrow/meat broths21.

More important than what we eat is how we eat. Food sadhana, or our daily relationship with food and eating, needs to be nourishing and calming, rather than hurried and rushed. Just as our pace of life affects our stress levels, our pace and style of eating affects whether our food becomes ojas or ama. As Maya Tiwari writes in her article, Food Sadhanas, two vital ingredients in a meal is “love and kindness”24. Without these two essential ingredients, ojas and the energy of the food can diminish greatly.  Creating consciousness around the way we cook and eat is crucial to building ojas and supporting a healthy digestion. Sitting down quietly to enjoy a meal, not eating too quickly and chewing our food thoroughly are important aspects of both food sadhana and healthy stress levels in the body. As Ginny Mazzei says in her article, My 3 Favorite Ways to Build Ojas “There is a sweetness and calmness that comes from eating quietly”12. She says, “Simply making sure that I sit down when I eat (as opposed to eating while driving, or snatching bites in between appointments) has a major impact on how my food digests”12. This respect and connectedness to food enhances physical ojas in the body.  A healthy diet, and a consciousness about how one eats and chooses particular foods, is one of the most crucial ways to build ojas. Other ways to build both physical and mental ojas include: yoga asanas, pranayama, or breathing practices, meditation, time in nature, gentle exercise, stress reduction, self nourishment and positive living. 

Yoga is an important way to relieve stress and cultivate quality ojas in the body. “Yoga practices undoubtedly help in reduction of stress, along with bringing about harmony of internal and external environment thus helping in physical, mental as well as spiritual well being of an individual”16. Gentle yoga helps the body relieve tensions and constrictions so energy flows more freely in the body and ojas is increased. Yin yoga, restorative yoga and gentle yoga are all ways to build ojas21.

Pranayama, or breathing practices, play an important role in building ojas.  “Prana plays a vital role in promoting ojas, and the practice of yogic pranayama and vital breathing help to build ojas via the inherent life-force that they bring into the body”15. As mentioned ojas is often depleted from poor breathing habits. Breath constriction is a leading cause of depleted ojas21. Taking the time each day to focus on deep, even and smooth breathing is a simple, yet highly efficient way to increase ojas and vitality21.

Meditation is a potent way to cultivate mental ojas. Meditation creates mental tranquility and tranquility is essential for maintaining healthy ojas15. “Letting go of the constrictions in the mind and processing through our thoughts, feelings and emotions is a powerful way to boost healthy ojas in the system”21. It is through meditation that we increase awareness and consciousness and cultivate feeling of peace and contentment; all signs that ojas is present and flowing freely through us12. Lad writes that in the state of effortless meditation where the mind is quiet, apara ojas becomes active. It is then that we realize our true nature is love. “…Para ojas opens the door to God consciousness which is non-judgmental awareness”9.  Para ojas then becomes soma and releases bliss molecules into the body, cultivating the purest ojas within9.

Reducing stress and tension in daily life is crucial to maintaining healthy ojas in the body and in the mind. Quality rest and adequate sleep are crucial to building physical ojas. Insomnia, along with overworking, and a hectic lifestyle all deplete ojas. Reducing negativity and conflict at work, and at home, is essential to a healthy immune system and a calm mind, both of which are dependent upon good ojas21. Spending time in nature is good for increasing ojas. Unplugging from the constant stimuli at our fingertips is also important. By turning off the television and going outside into a quiet environment both body and mind have time to replenish, to breathe and to be quiet. Daily gentle exercise is another way to enhance ojas. Simply taking a walk in the fresh air, or a swim, or a gentle bike ride all promote healthy living and ojas building.

Self care, love and nourishment are wonderful ways to increase physical and mental ojas. Self care reduces stress and combats the accruing tensions from the day. Taking time for warm baths, self massage and daily relaxation practices are all ways to take care of the self and to take care of ojas. “A warm, gentle self-oil massage at the end of the night is a great way to build ojas while nurturing body, mind and soul”21. Surrounding ourselves with positive energy and positive people is a simple yet highly effective way to increase ojas21. Called satsang in yoga, it means to be in the company of like minded people. Spending time with the people we love and taking time to love ourselves will help cultivate and enhance ojas in body, mind and spirit.

Conclusion:

“Ultimately, the goal of Ayurveda is to increase the Ojas in each being…”3. This can be done, “by understanding and modulating the factors that influence immunity in the body”3. For thousands of years, Ayurveda has taught that stress impacts health and ojas negatively and to prevent this is simply to live a life of equanimity. Ayurveda has known for centuries what modern medicine is now finally telling us: “that late nights, too much stress and lack of coping skills and bad food impact our immune system3. Western medicine has recognized that stress and tension create illness and disease in the body, and that it is now a leading cause of health care expenses. It is time for the West to learn from the science of Ayurveda and take a stronger preventive stance against illness and disease. Modern medicine needs to emphasize a balanced lifestyle as a realistic cure to health problems. Understanding ojas could be a powerful tool in the fight against physical and mental illnesses. Ayurveda, and specifically the cultivation of quality ojas within body and mind, could be instrumental in the battle against chronic stress. Placing importance on quality ojas within the body could help prevent weakened immune systems, and mental disturbances, that continue to increase because of external stressors and the hectic pace of modern life. Learning from ancient wisdom could be one answer to modern medicine’s woes.

References

1. Arora, Deepa, Mukesh Kumar, S.D. Dubey, and S.k. Baapat. "Stress-Management: Leads from Ayurveda." Ancient Science of Life Vol : XXIII.1 (2003): 8-15. Print. 

2. Basisht, Gopal. "Symbiohealth - Need of the Hour." AYU - An International Quarterly Journal of Research in Ayurveda 32, no. 1, 6-11. doi:2011. 

3. Battacharya, B. (n.d.). “Ojas, The Origin of Vitality.” Ayurveda and Health Tourism, 9(1). doi:2014 

4. Blyweiss, David. "Is Stress Making You Sick?" ANM Health Newsletter. http://www.muditainstitute.com/articles/ayurvedicmedicine/ewExternalFiles/Stress.pdf 

5. Datta, H., Mittra, S., Paramesh, R., & Patwardhan, B. (n.d.).”Theories and Management of Aging: Modern and Ayurvedic Perspectives.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. doi:2011 

6. "Essence and Purpose of Ayurveda." Health And Lifestyle Blog By Dr JV Hebbar B.A.M.S., M.D (Ayu)., PGDPSM. Web. <http://easyayurveda.com/2014/08/21/essence-purpose-ayurveda-charaka-sutrasthana-30/>. 

7. Gangadharan, G., & Manohar, R. (n.d.). Concept of Immunology in Ayurveda. Ancient Science of Life, XIV(1 & 2), 2-9. doi:1994 

8. Halpern, M. (2010). Principles of Ayurvedic Medicine (Tenth ed.). California: Marc Halpern - California College of Ayurveda. 

9. Lad, Vasant. Textbook of Ayurveda: Fundamental Principles. First ed. Vol. 1. Vasant Lad, 2002. Print. 

10. Lad, Vasant. Textbook of Ayurveda: A Complete Guide to Clinical Assessment. First ed. Vol. 2. Vasant Lad, 2007. Print.

11. Marshall, K. (n.d.). Stress: An Ayurvedic Perspective. http://www.muditainstitute.com/articles/ayurvedicmedicine/ewExternalFiles/Stress.pdf 

12. Mazzei, G. (n.d.). My Three Favorite Ways to Build Ojas https://yogainternational.com/article/view/my-3-favorite-ways-to-build-o...

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14. Ninivaggi, F. (2010). Ayurveda: A comprehensive guide to traditional Indian medicine for the West. (First ed.). Rowman & Littlefield. 

15. Pole, Sebastian. Ayurvedic Medicine: The Principles of Traditional Practice. London: Singing Dragon. Print. Rao, V. (n.d.).

16. Rao, Mangalagowri. "Diet and Yogic Practices: Ideal Ways to Kindle Agni and Prevent Lifestyle Disorders." J. Adv. Res. Ayur. Yoga Unani Sidd. Homeo. 1.1: 3-18. Print.

17. Tiwari, Mamta, and Anurag Pandey. "Integrating Ayurvedic Concepts of Immunity and its Enhancement - A Review." Pharma Science Monitor 6.1 (2015). Print.

18. The Ayurvedic Connection Between Agni and Ama. (n.d.) http://www.keralaayurveda.biz/content/ayurvedic-connection-between-agni-and-ama

19. Walton, K., & Pugh, N. (1995). Stress, Steroids, and "Ojas" Indian J Physio Pharmacol; 39(1), 3-36. doi:1995 

20. What is Ojas? Why does Ayurveda say it's important? (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.keralaayurveda.biz/content/what-ojas-why-does-ayurveda-say-its-important 

21. 11 Ways to Increase Healthy Ojas. (n.d.). http://svasthaayurveda.com/11-ways-to-increase-healthy-ojas/ 

22. Mind in Ayurveda. Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 44(3), 201-211.

23. Ayurvedic Lifestyle Increases Ojas / Consciousness. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://shaktiveda.com/ayurvedic-lifestyle-increases-ojas-consciousness/ 

24. Food Sadhanas. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.google.com/#q=food sadhana: the india times 

25. Byadgi, P.S. "Concept of Immunity in Ayurveda." Journal of Applied Pharmaceutical Science 01.5: 21-24. Print.

 

 

About the Student Research Papers

The papers published on our website have been written by students of the California College of Ayurveda as a part of their required work toward graduation. After reviewing each paper, Dr. Halpern selects those papers that he feels are appropriate to publish. The information in each paper should not be construed as the final word on any subject nor should it be assumed that errors do not exist.