Ojas: Boosting your Bliss through Seasonal Practices
You know when you feel on the edge of good health, where you are getting by okay, but not feeling completely vibrant and not thriving the way you believe you can? You may be experiencing chronic low immunity. What keeps the immune system strong may be a mystery to you if you eat right, rest well, and keep a regular yoga practice and yet still feel blah. True vitality from an Ayurvedic perspective says that the health of the seven tissue layers or dhatus which make up the human body are responsible for the state of our immunity. These tissue layers are Rasa (lymph), Rakta (blood), Mamsa (muscle), Medha (fat), Asthi (bone), Majja (bone marrow) and Shukra (semen/reproductive tissue). Each layer respectively feeds the next eventually determining our immunity. The final essence of building these seven tissues is called ojas.
Ojas is a Sanskrit word meaning life sap, immunity, radiance, inner vitality, vigor, or life juice. It is the essential substance or essence of the body that protects and sustains us and determines our emotional, physical and mental health and happiness. Excellent ojas comes from a consistent seasonal practice that honors the Ayurvedic principles of sustainable health and longevity. This is not something we can fake, manufacture or buy. It comes from a commitment to inner happiness, consciousness and a balanced healthy lifestyle. We build our ojas by feeding the tissues properly one layer at a time and by mindfully observing these practices.
Winter is the ideal season for nourishing the seven tissue layers of the body and building ojas. The healthy building up of these tissues is crucial to our longevity especially if we have become depleted through the year from disturbed metabolism, depression, mental stress, poor sleep, excessive indulgence and general prajnaparadha or ‘crimes against wisdom’ as well as overuse of pharmaceutical drugs and other intoxicants and general lack of self care. All these factors cause toxins to build in our body and we need proper digestion and rest to get us back on track and to maintain and build our vitality.
In the winter, ojas is boosted as our internal fire increases and nourishes us with a warm glow from within, protecting us from the cold. Because we are set up by Mother Nature to build, strengthen and nourish during this season, following a sound daily practice will go a long way in securing vital immunity for the year ahead. A daily practice for winter brings the sustenance much needed and most essential for thriving with the inert nature of this season. By eating warm, light and nourishing food and avoiding any type of fasting in winter you can sustain your health and build immunity for the coming spring season. By including rejuvenating herbs, and fortifying tonics with the appropriate daily and seasonal routines you can keep colds, coughs and other respiratory ailments at bay and also boost mental and emotional wellbeing. These restorative herbs and foods are known as rasayana or rejuvenating substances.
Wintertime is a beautiful opportunity for self-care. Our immunity is strengthened through rest and increased metabolic activity where we build our ojas. When our ojas is low and depleted we are beginning a cycle of compromised health but when it is strong, juicy and luscious we are setting ourselves up for a lifetime of inner and outer beauty.
Adjusting our diet according to the seasonal routines and needs of the body and following the Ayurvedic guidelines for the seasonal transitions, can prevent a build up of ama or toxins in the body. These deplete healthy tissues and lead to fatigue, low immunity and can eventually accumulate into more advanced disease states.
By refining our food choices, our practices and our mindset through the winter we can thrive all year round. As we prepare for spring when the snow begins to melt and the toxins in our bodies are ready to be softened and released, we shift our practices to detoxifying and letting go. In Ayurveda there is no one-size-fits-all philosophy. Learning from nature we align ourselves with the wisdom provided and by applying the practices we discover increased resistance to disease, more energy, tranquility, cheerful outlook, mental clarity and emotional balance.
That is the ultimate ojas!
10 Winter Immune Boosting Tips:
1. Eat light, warm foods.
2. Avoid eating or drinking anything cold, because cold foods and drinks will reduce the digestive fire.
3. Avoid heavy, difficult to digest sweets and fried foods. Enjoy sweet root vegetables, broths and soups.
4. Daily self massage in the morning with warm oils such as sesame or sunflower strengthens the skin and muscles and nourishes the tissues. This practice daily enhances a feeling of love and wellbeing.
5. Take warm baths in the evening with epsom salts and warming essential oils such as ginger, cardamom, eucalyptus, rosemary, cinnamon, cedar, pine, juniper, basil.
6. Include warming spices such as cardamom, ginger, cumin, turmeric and cinnamon in your foods.
7. Make sure to get enough sleep and avoid oversleeping.
8. Explore including in your diet, Ayurvedic rejuvenative herbs taken as teas or tonics such as: ashwaghanda, turmeric, triphala, amla (Indian Gooseberry), tulsi (holy basil), chyavanprash (an Ayurvedic formulation of rejuvenating herbs plus honey and ghee). All these are available at your health food store or online at various Ayurvedic herbal suppliers.
9. Enjoy warming and energizing exercise such as active yoga, walking, hiking, and snowshoeing. These enhance circulation and build strength.
10. Allow yourself space and time for meditative reflection, inner contemplation and pranayama practice.
Here’s to your health, a thriving winter and a juicy ojas!