By Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa, Oregon, USA
Are you having one of those days? You slept all night, but you still woke up exhausted. All you want is to go back to sleep. It’s 11:00 a.m. and the cobwebs still haven’t cleared.
Maybe you can't quite define energy, but you know when you have it. If energy is the legal tender of life, though, many of us are overdrawn in our energy bank accounts. We've dipped into our line of credit so repeatedly and stressed ourselves so much that we're just plain depleted.
Let’s face it, we’re a nation of tired people—so much so that tiredness is one of the top five reasons for doctor visits. Fatigue is not truly a disease, but it is a symptom of many conditions, first among them poor quality sleep. Stress, poor eating habits, abundant sweets, and too little physical activity all contribute to tiredness. And, of course, there are the medical reasons for fatigue: arthritis, heart disease, obesity, depression, and cancer, just to start at the top of the list.
Ojas: The Key to Long Term Stamina and Rejuvenation
In our world of yoga and Ayurveda, long term stamina and rejuvenation revolve around the concept of ojas, which is the most concentrated essence of nutritional substances in the body, roughly comparable to cerebrospinal fluid—the juice your brain runs on—and the reason we do kriyas that circulate that fluid. The food you eat, once consumed, is progressively concentrated into ever more distilled categories of tissue building nutrients. Yogi Bhajan said many times that one hundred bites of food will produce one drop of blood, and that one hundred drops of blood will produce one drop of ojas. You have a total quantity of just 8 drops of priceless ojas in your entire body.
Yoga understands ojas as a very fine biological substance that comprises the most concentrated essence of nutrients and energy in the body. Because it is the essence of all the types of tissues and the physical expression of consciousness in the body, the basic biological strength of the tissues depends on having plenty of it, and making sure the small amount you have is premium quality.
Ojas is strongly correlated with your vitality and immunity. Ojas is especially concentrated in the heart, but it pervades the entire body, as the essence of honey is present in a flower. So, as we can see, starting with good quality food is essential to maintaining good health—especially energy, sexual health, and long term stamina.
When ojas has become deficient, we see a syndrome consisting of fear, physical and mental weakness, impaired mental functions, and tissue dryness. And precious ojas can be destroyed by pretty much any health defeating factor. In particular, Ayurveda blames trauma, serious malnutrition, grief, anger, mental stress, physical hard work, and hunger.
To fortify your precious ojas, diet is key, and that diet needs to be a highly nutritive program emphasizing whole grains like wheat and rice, seeds, nuts, milk products, and natural sugars, such as honey. Cooked, moist foods (soups) add to this nutritious diet. Balance your diet to contain a broad range of all six of the Ayurvedic tastes: sweet, sour, salty, spicy, bitter, and astringent. Generally, use food that is sweet, oily, cooling, light, and easily digestible, but cut back on dry or raw food. Raw food tends to provoke the air tattva, which is the detoxifying energy in the body, while to build ojas, we would instead build the earth and water tattvas. Make sure to include a good quality raw vegetable oil (almond, sesame) and ghee, as Yogi Bhajan recommended countless times. Onion, garlic, ginger, eggplant, figs and dates, all of which he consistently applauded, help build ojas.
Ojas is stored throughout the body, but largely in muscles, fat, and organs. The production of ojas comes after the production of sexual fluids (shukra) and most of it is made at night during restorative sleep. Ojas is used for immunity and sexual activities, so it is easily depleted by either use.
With a thorough and disciplined program, it takes thirty days to replenish the ojas reserves in a depleted body. Sexual abstinence during this time will help ojas accumulate.
Yogi Bhajan was fond of recommending ojas enhancing drinks with the proper Ayurvedic qualities, often to be consumed after sex, especially by men. Although he gave many recipes, they all had a similar theme.
Rejuvenating Ojas Drink for Men (especially for after sex)
8-10 oz. milk
1-3 tsp. grated fresh ginger root
1-3 tsp. black sesame seed (or white sesame seed)
1-3 tsp. ghee
Cinnamon and clove to taste.
Honey to taste if desired.
Warm milk to comfortable drinking temperature. Blend ingredients in blender. Drink after sex (especially men) or daily as a restorative for sexual function.
Chyavanprash is an ancient tonic that is used by all ages to improve mental and physical wellbeing. The inventor, Rishi Chyavan, designed it to be the ojas builder par excellence. He was a forest monk, and he developed it for his own sexual potency before a late-in-life marriage. “Prash” means jelly. The most famous herb in all of yoga, amla fruit, is the basis for this famous Ayurvedic rejuvenating jelly. Think of Chyavanprash as the “multiple vitamin” of Ayurveda—it is the most consumed formula. In Asia, where everyone reveres this formula, fifty percent of all Ayurvedic sales is for this jelly!
As a mild all around health tonic, Chyavanprash can be used by people of all ages. Yogi Bhajan said that it is “the healthiest thing in the world and that ever got produced by a human being.” Chyavanprash is about 80% amla fruit. According to the Charaka Samhita, this classic remedy is comprised of 42 other herbal ingredients. Into a base of fresh amla fruit, the herbal ingredients, including ghee, sesame oil, sugar cane juice, raw honey, clove, and cinnamon, are added for their synergistic effects. It is good for almost any weakness, or as a general energy supplement. It’s also used for cough, lung diseases, wasting, loss of voice, cardiac disorders, thirst, gout, impotence, and to promote growth of children. Modern scientists say that Chyavanprash protects the liver from damage and reduces blood sugar and cholesterol significantly.
- As a long term, slow acting remedy for chronic inflammation and aging, use 1-2 grams per day.
- For sexual rejuvenation, energy, and stamina, stir Chyavanprash into warm milk or spread it on toast, and consume 1-2 Tbs. every day.
- Yogi Bhajan told me that one ounce of Chyavanprash covered in sliver leaf with a glass of milk, would make an excellent everyday breakfast.
If your energy is sagging, likely you are suffering from adrenal exhaustion. The adrenal glands produce hormones that help regulate energy levels. One secret to maintaining high energy is to use herbal medicines, pranayama, and kriyas to improve the function of the adrenals and other hormone producing (endocrine) glands.
- Sat kriya is a great place to start, as it energizes all the hormone producing glands.
- For an energizing pranayama, use a 4 part inhale, followed by a long exhale.
Ready to get energized? Proper food, powerful pranayama, and potent herbs can bolster your ojas and give you the zip you’ve been missing.
Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa, Yogaraj, DN-C, RH, is the president of the American Herbalists Guild. He mentored in Ayurveda with Yogi Bhajan for 32 years. He lives in the Northwest with his wife and daughter. [email protected]