Everyone, everywhere, is thinking about immunity right now. While we can put up all kinds of barriers between our bodies and the outside world — gloves, facemasks, layers of hand sanitizer — our real source of immunity actually lies within. Ayurveda calls it ojas, and to know what ojas is and how to nurture it is incredibly empowering. It brings our immunity into our own hands.
Although Ayurveda is thousands of years old, it could not be more relevant in this modern moment, and it offers us simple but potent ways to strengthen our immunity. This holistic system of healing from ancient India has long encouraged humans to protect and boost their ojas so that they can more easily recover from and ward off disease.
Ojas is sometimes called our “vital essence.” It’s a super subtle substance that’s located both in the heart and all throughout the body, described by the ancients as a whitish, soft, sweet fluid. It’s the final outcome of wholesome food intake and good digestion: well digested food goes on to create our physical body tissues, which, in turn, nourish ojas.
The more ojas we have, the better. It gives us strength, vitality, and resistance to disease. Ojas are like a shield that lives within each and every one of our cells. It won’t allow any illness to take root.
If our body is healthy and our ojas strong, disease has no place to manifest.
So how do we know if we have good ojas? For one, we rarely get sick. We’re strong, happy, and content. We can see ojas expressed externally — through clear, sparkly eyes, and glowy skin.
No matter where we fall on the health spectrum, we have an infinite number of opportunities in each and every day to boost our ojas, to strengthen our vitality, and lessen our risk of getting sick from any sort of imbalance, be it physical or mental.
The Mind Factor
The biggest creator of ojas is the mind. Any activity that makes the mind happy and harmonious is an ojas booster. This is one of the sweetest parts of Ayurveda: all wholesome joys are abundantly encouraged and act like medicine. Laughing, connecting with friends and loved ones, healthy relationships, steeping in nature, even watching a funny movie — all act as tonics to ojas.
On the other hand, stress, which is a reaction of the mind, is incredibly depleting. As most of us know from personal experience, a few weeks of suffering from exhausting work or excess emotional stress and we very well may end up sick.
The better our relationship to stress and the more resilient our mind to the outer unknown, the stronger our ojas. It’s so important for each and everyone of us to reflect on the amount of stress we willingly create in our lives. Wherever we normally push ourselves beyond our capacity, we can humbly scale back. This will not only reduce stress, but it will allow our ojas to flourish and immunity to rise. And there’s no better time to do so than the current moment.
Nature has given us an opportunity to stay put, slow down, and take a look at how we need to reframe our reality so that we’re living harmoniously within ourselves.
The Digestion Factor
Digestion and immunity are intimately connected. A healthy digestive system creates healthy body tissues, which creates healthy ojas. For this reason, ayurveda puts immense emphasis on caring for digestion whether we’re healthy or sick. No aspect of our health is untouched by digestion.
There are a few easy, key practices to keep digestion strong.
First, warm and cooked food is by nature easier to digest than anything cold or raw, which is why these foods are encouraged in Ayurveda.
Second, eating around the same time each day helps our digestive system do its job well. Our body thrives on rhythm and routine and can better process the food we put in if it can anticipate when that will be.
Third, eating according to our hunger is a digestive must. Both overeating and undereating can create toxins in the body. When the urge for hunger is there, answer it. If the urge is absent, don’t force it.
Because these practices feed our body in the way it naturally craves, they feel extremely good to implement.
Eating for Ojas
Certain foods have an ojas-boosting effect, and one of modern Ayurveda’s favorites is a sweet ojas shake. It combines several ojas-boosting foods: milk, ghee, dates, and saffron.
To make it, bring ½ cup raw organic cow’s milk or almond milk and ½ cup water to a low boil. Turn off the heat, add 2 pitted, soft dried dates, a pinch of cardamom, a pinch of cinnamon, and a couple strands of saffron. Blend it in a blender and drink warm.
Not only does this simple ojas shake nurture our ojas, it’s also calming and grounding.
As we move through this uncharted territory of global pandemic, keeping our mind happy and digestion strong is so important for protecting our immunity. No one can inject us with ojas; it’s something that we alone have control over. With this knowledge, we become empowered to make choices that support our wellbeing, vitality, and strength.
Julie Bernier helps women to bring their bodies back into balance, whether they’re struggling with hormonal imbalances, period problems, digestive troubles, skin conditions, anxiety, depression, preparing for or recovering from giving birth, or any other dis-ease. This holistic approach to individualized wellness is rooted in Ayurveda. Julie is a registered Ayurvedic Practitioner and Ayurvedic Yoga Therapist with the National Ayurvedic Medical Association (NAMA) as well as a Certified Massage Therapist. Connect with her at trueayurveda.com and on Instagram at @juliebernier.