Ojas (OH-jas) is considered to be the most refined by-product of digestion, said to reside in the heart. Ayurveda considers ojas to be an essence of nature and a cosmic substance that directly influences our experience of life.
Ojas is the first thing to be created in the body of all living beings. It is ghee colored, it tastes like honey and smells like roasted puffed rice.
~ Caraka Samhita Sutrasthana 17.74
Our vitality, immunity, vigor, skin, sleep, digestion, spirituality and physical strength are all directly influenced by our reserve of ojas.
A plentiful reserve of ojas is reflected in the luster of the eyes, radiance of the skin (that glow so detectable in babies and pregnant women), potent fertility, tenacious immunity, strong digestion and clarity of mind.
A strong link between ojas and spirituality is also drawn, as ojas is seen to be the physiological expression of pure consciousness.
As such, a lack of ojas will be reflected in all the body systems, not least of all a sallow or dull complexion, compromised immunity, fertility, anxiety, and a weak mind.
Stress, overwork, and lack of sleep are culturally common ways that ojas becomes depleted. Excessive alcohol, fever, ejaculation, orgasm (for both men and women), too much exertion in the form of exercise or sports, malnourishment or poor digestion and absorption (agni), and draining emotions such as sadness, fear, anxiety, depression, irritability and anger are the other main ways that our ojas may be sapped.
Building ojas is an art. Perhaps one of the best ways to consistently build ojas is to eat a diet of fresh, unprocessed whole foods in the appropriate season. Through the process of healthy digestion, microscopic amounts of the essence of these foods accumulate over time and become ojas.
Other effective ways of building ojas include yoga, pranayama breathing exercises, and meditation, spending time in nature, sleeping (early to bed, early to rise and not in excess), laughing, showing love and affection and giving to others, spending time being creative, not rushing, relaxing, and doing things that make you happy.
Certain herbs in Ayurveda are also prized as great ojas-builders. Traditionally, a concoction of these herbs, including Ashwagandha and Shatavari, were blended with ojas-building foods like dates, almonds, coconut, saffron, ghee, honey and cardamom in a milk base. This mixture was warmed and taken before bed as a sleep aid and an ojas-builder to boot.
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Ojas Nightly Tonic: This sumptuous blend of ojas-building foods and herbs (Ashwagandha and Shatavari) makes it easy to replenish your reserves. Add a heaping teaspoon to a cup of milk or milk substitute, add a bit of ghee or coconut oil and bring to a simmer for your ojas-building nightcap.
Shatavari: Perhaps the most important tonifying herb for women in the Ayurvedic apothecary, Shatavari is an ojas-building heavy hitter that is also a powerful adaptogen, deeply supporting the nervous system to process stress from a center of calm.
Ashwagandha: Perhaps one of the most well-known Ayurvedic adaptogens in the west, Ashwagandha is praised for its ability to stabilize and nourish. Literally translated as the “strength” or “sweat of ten horses,” this sweet root can help foster a good night’s sleep while promoting high and sustained energy levels throughout the day, with special emphasis on the nervous and musculoskeletal systems, which suffer during times of stress.
Regenerate: This is a combination of predominantly the ojas-building and generally restorative Shilajit – a highly sought-after resin from the Himalayas – and the synergistic herbs Ashwagandha and Amalaki. Shilajit is traditionally described as a “yogavahi,” meaning it will enhance the benefits of all other nutrients taken due to its aptitude for increasing cell absorption.