Anita Krishnan was a vibrant and extremely active woman. A social worker, dancer, wife and mother, Anita’s life was completely fulfilling. However, over the past several months her family noticed a distinct change in her personality. She was dull and fatigued. Anita complained of hair loss, lack of appetite and joint pain. Concerned, her family took her to several doctors but they were unable to diagnose her malaise. Finally, Anita took the decision to meet an Ayurvedic doctor in Kerala. The State, with its rich legacy of Ayurveda, has the best hospitals and practitioners. She described her symptoms to the Acharya at one of the hospitals and received some valuable insights to her condition and what she should do to get back her strength, vitality and mental acuteness. The Acharya told her that her ‘ojas’ was depleted and she should work towards correcting it. In order to better understand the concept of ojas and its importance to our well being, we have summarized below the conversation that Anita had with the Acharya.
How does Ayurveda describe Ojas?
Acharya: There are many interpretations of Ojas. Some see it as a liquid that is the end product of a long digestive process. Others equate it with antibodies. There is a school of thought which states that ojas could be the white blood cells in our body. Certain experts say that ojas is just the energy created by the body due to our lifestyle and diet. Ayurveda states that there are seven layers of tissues (dhatus) in the body. The ojas may be what is left behind after the nourishment of the seven dhatus. Therefore, ojas may also be regarded as the eighth layer of tissue. The concept of ojas may be explained in different ways. But there is complete agreement on the fact that it is a quantifiable substance and forms the essence of life.
How does our body produce ojas and where is it found?
Acharya: The ancient text, Charaka Samhita has a wonderful explanation of how ojas is formed. It states that just as a bee collects honey from the fruits and flowers, our body collects Ojas from our actions, qualities, habits and diet. We are all born with ojas in our body. However, our lifestyle is critical to maintaining it. Any depletion of ojas can have an impact on our health and well being. The most important site where ojas is found is the heart. It contains a small amount of extremely precious ojas. The remaining ojas circulates in small quantities all over the body. The ojas is our heart is of a different, superfine quality and is known as para ojas.
How does Ojas help our body and mind?
Acharya: Ojas is critical to maintaining health and preventing diseases. It is also necessary to fight diseases. The Charaka Samhita states that when the ojas is diminished, we become weak and worried; our sense organs are affected and our mental capacity becomes less acute. The ojas maintains the seven layers of tissues and the balance of the Vata, Pitta and Kapha doshas. In more modern terms, Ojas plays a major role in providing us with immunity. In addition, it is necessary for the essential working of body functions like the nervous, digestive, endocrine, skeletal and muscular systems. Ojas also affects our blood circulation.
How does the level of Ojas in our body get depleted?
Acharya: There are several reasons why the ojas level in our body gets depleted. This includes stress, poor diet, physical injury, mental ill health like depression, chronic ailments, excessive sexual activity and aging.
How do we know that the ojas in our body is getting depleted? What are the symptoms?
Acharya: There are three stages of ojas depletion – ojo visramsa, ojavyapth and ojokshaya. In the first stage, ojo visramsa the body becomes dysfunctional. Pain and lack of strength in multiple joints, fatigue and malaise are some of the symptoms. In the second stage, ojavyapth, the symptoms become more severe and include stiffness and heaviness of the body, edema, skin pigmentation, increase in fatigue, lack of functioning of the sense organs and excessive sleepiness. In the third stage, ojokshaya, the patient suffers from spells of unconsciousness, lack of muscle mass, delirium and delusion often resulting in death.
How do we replenish ojas once the process of depletion begins?
Acharya: Diet plays a very important role in replenishing ojas in the body. Foods that help build ojas in the body include ghee, whole grains, dry fruits and nuts, healthy oils particularly sesame and coconut, cow milk and fruits. Abhyanga or a self-massage is also a way to stimulate and replace ojas. Select the oil according to the season. It’s better to use sesame oil during winter and coconut oil in summer. Warm the oil and gently massage it all over the body. Stress is a cause for depletion of ojas. Meditation, yoga and deep breathing and the acceptance of what life has to offer can all help in maintaining ojas.
The visit to the Ayurveda practitioner in Kerala helped Anita understand that her hectic schedule was causing imbalances in her life. This had affected her ojas. She did a course correction, cut down on commitments and has bounced back to her old self.