Ayurveda teaches us that our wellness, vitality, and potential for spiritual growth is dependent upon something called our ojas: the sap of our life’s energy, and the gateway between matter and consciousness.
Ayurveda considers ojas to be an actual substance, residing primarily in the heart. Balanced ojas brings strength, luster, contentment, and good health. Decreased ojas, on the other hand, put us at risk for decay and disease. Western medicine doesn’t have an equivalent to ojas, and the closest concept is immunity. They’re not exactly the same thing, but ojas is the main factor responsible for our immunity, and its plenitude is essential for preventing disease.
In the modern Western world, we tend to look to vitamins and supplements to boost our immunity. They can sometimes be helpful, but if our behaviors and mindset are bringing us down, vitamins don’t have the power to boost us up again.
To strengthen our immunity, we should take a look at those behaviors and bad habits that might be diminishing our ojas. Knowing which actions negatively affect ojas sheds light on the areas in which we can improve. We can’t expect to be perfect, but if we want to achieve or preserve our good health, we should break the cycle of repeatedly partaking in these feelings or behaviors:
— Negative emotions. These might be excessive grief, worry, or anger, all of which bring us away from a sattvic, or peaceful state.
— Stress. High or even chronic low-level stress wears the body down, which modern medical science explains as an overactive sympathetic nervous system and increased cortisol levels.
— Continuously hurrying or being in a rush, which also wears down the body.
— Too much exercise, which depletes the body.
— Excessive fasting, which emaciates the body tissues.
— A very light diet or too little food which prevents the body from receiving proper nourishment.
— Staying awake at night, which causes us to miss the natural cycle for replenishment and rejuvenation.
— Too much sexual activity, which depletes the sukra- the male and female reproductive tissues. Excessive loss of sukra directly correlates with decreased ojas.
— Excessive alcohol, which dries out the body.
Some factors that deplete ojas are out of our hands, like trauma to the body or loss of blood. But the behaviors and mindset listed above are within our power to change. We have to first bring awareness to our actions, taking a good look at those behaviors which might be doing us in.
Unfortunately, most of the factors above can be attributed to modern American lifestyle– frequent detoxes, drastic diets, trying to accomplish a million things in one day, hours of working out, pressure to balance full time work and family life– in effect, all-around extremes. Most of these behaviors do us more harm than good. If we really want to be our healthiest selves, we must reflect upon which behaviors are truly serving us, and where we can make improvements.