Understanding Prana, Tejas, And Ojas For Ayurvedic Healing
In Ayurvedic tradition, subtle energy within the body is fluid and dynamic. Blockages within the energy channels and energy centers can contribute to poor health, leading to a variety of ailments and symptoms. Identifying and tuning into your subtle energy and working with the body through yoga postures, diet, and activity can bring one into an optimal state of health. Here we explore prana, tejas, and ojas as they relate to vitality, energy, and radiant health.
So, how do we tap into this vital energy? The first step is understanding that prana, tejas, and ojas, are already present inside us, in our physical and subtle bodies. Proper exercise, techniques, and practices that work on the physical body and correspond to the non-physical bodies where the subtle energy centers are found.
Sitting in the lotus pose helps balance prana, ojas, tejas and helps open the heart chakra. Being honest with our feelings and emotions builds prana, ojas and tejas as well.
“These three forces (ojas, tejas and prana) are interrelated. Prana and tejas are rooted in ojas and can be regarded as aspects of ojas. Tejas is the heat and light energy of ojas that has an oily quality and, like ghee can sustain a flame. Prana is the energy and strength that comes from ojas after it has been kindled into tejas. Ojas proper is the potential, the stamina of the mind and nervous system for holding tejas and prana. Ojas has the capacity to turn into tejas (heat), which has the capacity to turn into prana (electricity).”
-Yoga and Ayurveda, David Frawley
SEE ALSO: The Healing Properties Of Lava Stone
What is Prana?
Prana is the vital life force in all of us. It is the subtle vata or air element, and is responsible for life. We practice pranayama, or breathing exercises, to tap into this energy within our bodies. Although identified with the breath, prana is also responsible for the processes of circulation, digestion, and excretion. Prana is found throughout the chakras (energy centers), primarily the heart chakra (desires, egoism) and root chakra (elimination). There are altogether ten principal types of prana:
- Prana: heart chakra, respiration and circulation
- Apan: root chakra, elimination
- Saman: solar plexus chakra, digestion
- Udana: throat chakra, sound
- Vyan: sacral chakra, movement and circulation
- Naga: burping
- Kurma: opening the eyes
- Krikara: thirst and hunger
- Devadatta: yawning
- Dhananjay: hiccups
Prana can be enhanced with breath work. Performing pranayama leads to optimal health of body and mind. A few simple pranayama exercises should be performed daily.
- Yogic Breath: Also known as diaphragmatic breath, this involves a full in-breath with contraction of the diaphragm, ballooning of the abdominal wall and expansion of the chest to completely fill the lungs. It is then followed by relaxation of the diaphragm with purposeful out-breath to empty the lungs of all air. Perform with the mouth closed, jaw relaxed, in and out through the nose as a passageway for the breath.
- Anuloma Viloma: Also known as alternate nostril breathing, this helps to purify the energy channels in the astral body. It is performed in a ratio of 1:4:2 for example, inhale for a count of 4, hold for a count of 16, and exhale for a count of 8, alternating left to right.
- Agni Pranayama: Also known as breath of fire, this is a forceful exhalation with contraction of the abdominal wall followed by a passive inhalation. It is performed in a rapid, continuous rhythm through the nose, although I have also practiced it through the mouth (Bikram method). This is beneficial in cases of allergies, asthma and makes the lungs strong.
“The body of a person whose energy channels or nadis are pure will be lean and glowing. Purification of nadis leads to good health.” -The Hatha Yoga Pradipika.
What is Tejas?
Tejas is responsible for metabolism in the body. If it is too high, it burns out the ojas, like heat evaporating water. Physically, tejas can be thought of as hormones and amino acids that regulate cellular metabolism and food digestion. On a subtle level, tejas are related to one’s inner radiance. A person’s glow, clarity, fearlessness, intelligence, courage, and understanding is the subtle, positive essence in the body. This is the counterpart of pitta, or fire element.
Negative thinking, excessive talking, and emotional imbalances diminish tejas. This, in turn, damages the spleen, thymus, lymphatic, and immune system. If the tejas are out of balance, one should engage in positive thinking, meditation, mantra repetition, lotus posture, practice awareness, avoiding gossip and excessive talking, and consuming ginger, black pepper, and bitter ghee.
What is Ojas?
Ojas is the subtle essence that is responsible for life, radiant health, strong immunity, vigor, longevity and overall well-being. The heart is the physical organ of the ojas. From the heart, ten blood vessels (mahaphala) carry ojas to the rest of the body. Ojas is affected by not only the food we take in and healthy digestion, but also by the sensory impressions we take in. Therefore, it is important to protect the physical and emotional health of the heart.
Ojas also forms the basic material of the five sense organs, ligaments and lubricating fluids within the body. The subtle essence that is extracted from the proper digestion and efficient metabolism of food nourishes the bodily tissues of blood, plasma and lymph, muscle, fat, bones, bone marrow, and reproductive fluids. Improper digestion leads to production of ama or toxins in the body. The accumulation of ama/toxins in the bodily tissues is what leads to disease.
Ojas is diminished by undereating, overeating, eating when previous food has not yet been digested, consumption of poor quality food that results in the blocking of the channels, consumption of stale foods, canned foods, fermented foods (cheese, meat), irregular diet, excessive exercise, fasting, negative emotional stress (anxiety, anger, sadness, grief, hatred, jealousy, long held resentment, fear, and grief), consumption of alcohol, smoking, lack of sleep, excessive discharge of mucus, blood, semen and other excreta, with age and injury by other organisms, undue exposure to wind and sun, excessive sexual activity.
A person with weak ojas will appear timid, weak, anxious, depressed and worried. They will have a poor complexion, poor appetite (or emotional eater), feel sluggish, fatigued, and may suffer from disorders of the sense organs.
Ojas can be protected and revitalized by consumption of food that share the same properties of Ojas. Ojas has the 10 properties of sweet, cold, soft, unctuous, smooth, viscous, slimy, heavy, dull and clear. A balanced saatvik diet of fresh foods, cow’s milk, ghee, fruits, rice, sweet foods like dates, natural seeds and nuts like almonds, and healthy eating habits with moderation in exercise and food consumption. A person with healthy ojas possesses a clear radiant complexion, strong immunity against infectious disease, cheerfulness, energy and enthusiasm, youthfulness, high threshold for stress, mental clarity, creativity, and serenity.
Since Ojas is the result of the quality of food we eat, its proper digestion and efficient metabolism and the sensory impressions we encounter in our daily life, in order to protect ojas it is vital to protect the mind and heart from emotional strain and stress and to adopt a healthy balanced diet.
- Nourish your physical health by eating meals in a pleasant environment in the company of people that you enjoy.
- Eat at a moderate pace. Don’t eat in a hurry, while walking or driving.
- Don’t eat when you are emotional, angry, upset etc.
- Don’t eat if the previous meal still hasn’t been digested as that will lead to the production of ama/toxins. The accumulation of ama in the bodily tissues leads to disease.
- Nourish your mind through regular meditation
- Practice positive thinking
The relationship between prana, tejas and ojas maintains balance in the body by working on the physical and emotional aspects which are richly interconnected. Adapting a lifestyle that is conducive to the health and well-being of tejas and ojas ensure a vital flow of prana with ultimate optimal balance within the body.
I recommend starting with adopting the key concepts outlined above as it pertains to diet and eating practices. This is a simple and effective place to begin. As the body utilizes its energy in an efficient and positive way, strength of prana, tejas, and ojas will be experienced.
With this witness to optimal health comes the ongoing desire to take your practices further, which I welcome with wishes of wellness and compassion towards all.
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