Want to know the secret to slowing down aging while improving immunity, skin, mood, physical strength and overall health? It all comes back to a potent, magic elixir that our bodies produce. According to Ayurveda, the substance in the body that governs all this, is called ojas (or the most refined by-product of digestion, our prime energy reserve and the seat of our immune system).
The last two weeks we’ve been looking at the whole digestive process – as the food passes through the body, subtle digestion and nourishing the seven tissue layers (dhatus).
Just re-capping the order in which your tissues receive nourishment from the nutrients in the food you eat. First there is the formation of blood plasma, then serum and lymphatic fluid; formation of new red blood cells; formation of muscle tissue; formation of bones; formation of bone marrow and nerve tissue; formation of sperm and ovum and then the most refined point, which is formation of ojas.
If you missed my last blog which explains the seven dhatus (tissues), you can read it here.
I love comparing ojas to honey. If you think that some 20,000 bees per hive collect the nectar of thousands of flowers and concentrate them into honey – this is the ojas of the flowers.
So, if we eat fresh, healthy, unprocessed foods, tiny amounts of the foods’ essence accumulate through digestion and become ojas. If the digestive process is disturbed, say you’re eating on the run, fast food, processed food, binge eating or not eating mindfully, the essence of the food may not be extracted and ojas will not be made.
What decreases ojas
Stress and excessive activity deplete ojas. Stress gets into every single of the seven dhatus and literally causes havoc in our body, compromising health and wellbeing.
Take for example the production of rasa, or lymph - this literally stops when stress hormones fly around the body; and you will feel bloated and puffy - this is one of the main complaints we see in the clinic; and majja, the nervous system will not be creating ojas when the body is stressed - all this causes accelerated aging, anxiety, stress, chronic disease, sleep issues and more.
Western medicine is now catching on to what we’ve known in Ayurveda for 5000 years, and it’s now widely understood that our stomach isn’t only responsible for digesting what we eat, our gut health dramatically impacts how we feel as 95 percent of the body's serotonin is actually manufactured and stored in the gut. This is why we have an increase in autoimmune disease.
How our mood affects ojas
If we are healthy we can digest everything, so not only the food we are eating, but also our experiences and emotions and other senses like our smell, touch and sight.
Imagine you are about to sit down to dinner and someone starts talking about a situation at work, which was really stressful or upsetting, or you have a fight with your partner at the table.
Your stomach will feel tense, it will start to knot and you will probably lose your appetite. If you choose not to listen to your body’s signals, and go ahead and eat anyway, despite not feeling hungry, or wanting to eat, your body will not be producing the magic elixir of health. Rather, the type of nourishment that is being absorbed into your tissues will have a toxic residue.
It’s important to know your whole body is on hypo-alert when you are eating. Your stomach cells are aware of the conversation and everything you digest at the meal will be affected.
Other things to consider when nourishing your ojas is eating on the run, compulsive eating and overeating. All of these suppress your natural instincts and send a damaging chemical message straight to your cells.
Nurturing ojas and improving health
The good news is building ojas isn’t that hard - it comes from what you probably love doing, and will naturally do, when away from pressing schedules and busy lives.
This includes loving your family, friends and community, laughing, doing things you’re passionate about, giving and volunteering your time, yoga, meditation, being in nature, eating good foods, getting enough sleep and so on.
If you want to encourage the production of ojas in your body, start by living according to your body type and your specific blueprint to good health, drop the stress where you can and take time to do the things you love. If you don’t know your body type, you can do the test here.
When we finish one of our Health Dynamics programs the part we love most is the feedback. People say that they cannot believe how much their stress levels have gone down and how their response to stress is more balanced and grounded. They don’t reach for the wine or sweets to cope.This is always the best news we can get, seeing people really listening to their body, so they can become their own doctors.