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What Is Ojas in Ayurveda?

Updated: Jan 4

Ojas (pronounced with a long "o" sound, a hard "j" sound, and a short "u" sound then "s") is the super fine quality of kapha dosha. It is often discussed along with prana and tejas. Prana is the super fine quality of vata, and tejas is the super fine quality of pitta.

This blog post will focus on ojas.

The Learn Sanskrit Dictionary defines ojas as vitality, vigor, splendor, power, bodily strength, and support.

Ojas gives you your juiciness and provides you with immunity.

smiling woman with long hair wearing glasses standing on the street

According to the Ashtanga Hridayam, an ancient Ayurvedic text, "Increase of ojas makes for contentment, nourishment of the body and increase of strength."1

It is the first substance created in the body. It looks like ghee and smells like roasted rice. (Charaka Samhita, Sutrasthana, 17/74) It is oily, clear, and slightly reddish-yellow.2

Dr. Vasant Lad tells us that ojas "is a protoplasmic, biological substance that

includes albumin, globulin, and many hormones." The immune system, the endocrine (glands, organs, and hormones) system, the skeletal system, the nervous system, the muscular system, the hematopoiesis (blood formation) system, and the digestive system are all part of ojas.3

This means that ojas is an actual substance in the body, unlike prana, the life force energy, which is more energetic.

Two locations of ojas in the body

The Ashtanga Hridayam tells us that ojas is located in the heart, and it spreads through and is present throughout the body while controlling and regulating the body's functions.4

an illustration of a human heart

Ayurveda indicates that ojas is of two different kinds and is located in different places in the body

  • Para ojas

    • superior ojas

    • located in the heart, and stays in the heart

    • measured as 8 drops

    • stable

    • when this ojas leaves the body completely, the body ceases to function

    • a clear and slightly reddish-yellow substance

    • maintains consciousness

  • Apara ojas

    • inferior ojas

    • raw ojas

    • 1/2 an anjali (the amount that would fill an individual's cupped hands)

    • moves throughout the body

How ojas, tejas, and prana interact with each other in Ayurveda

We don't have direct English translations for ojas, tejas, and prana, but consider ojas as the vital protective energy, prana as the life force energy, and tejas as the biological intelligence responsible for transformation. These three all work together to create health.

Ojas and tejas, as well as agni (digestive fire), are interdependent. Tejas and agni help to form ojas through proper digestion. Proper quantity and quality of ojas create healthy agni and tejas. Ojas also acts as a container for tejas and agni to prevent them from creating too much heat.

Prana also affects ojas by bringing life force into the body through the breath. Ojas can be depleted by poor air quality or bad breathing habits, like shallow breathing or subconsciously holding the breath. Ojas also acts as a container for pana within the body.5

a woman in a white t-shirt smiling with her eyes closed

How the 7 dhatus (tissues of the body) affect ojas

Ayurveda tells us that we have seven dhatus (or tissues) in the body.

They are:

  1. rasa--plasma/lymph

  2. rakta--blood

  3. mamsa--muscle

  4. medha--fat

  5. asthi--bone

  6. majja--bone marrow

  7. shukra/artava--male/female reproductive tissues

You may find slightly different definitions for the above tissues depending on your source.

Ojas is the beautiful essence that occurs from proper digestion and assimilation of food which produces each of these tissues. Each of these tissues has its own specific digestion (ex. rasa dhatu agni, rakta dhatu agni, etc.), according to Ayurveda. When tissue digestion is healthy in each tissue then each of these tissues produces ojas.

There are three ways that Ayurveda says that the ahara rasa, or foodstuff from the gut that has gone through the first stage of digestion, nourishes these tissues and eventually nourishes ojas.

We will focus on one of these methods of digestion known as The Law of Transformation.

Once the ahara rasa (foodstuff that has gone through the first stage of digestion) leaves the gut, it passes out into the tissues (dhatus). Ayurveda says that each of these tissues has a sthaya, mature, and asthaya, immature, portion. When the ahara rasa enters rasa (plasma/lymph), the digestive fire of rasa dhatu makes mature rasa, and the leftover ahara rasa moves on to become immature rakta dhatu (blood). A part of this immature rasa dhatu is processed by the digestive fire of the rakta dhatu and transformed into mature rakta dhatu (blood), with the leftover portion becoming immature rakta dhatu that is then passed to the mamsa dhatu (muscle). The mamsa dhatu agni transforms this into mature mamsa dhatu (muscle) and the leftover becomes immature mamsa dhatu that is passed on to asthi dhatu (bone tissue). This process goes on until it reaches shukra/artava dhatu (reproductive tissues). The immature shukra dhatu is then used to make ojas that will circulate in the body.

While ojas is created by the tissues of the body, at the same time it also controls the quality and quantity of these seven tissues of the body, the waste products (malas--sweat, urine, and feces), and the three doshas (vata, pitta, and kapha).6

This is why Ayurveda stresses the importance of caring for your digestion. If the food you eat is not digested properly, it affects the health of every tissue in your body, and it also affects the quality and quantity of your ojas. If your digestion is weak or you are eating a lot of processed, leftover, or fast foods, this will show up in your tissues and ultimately in the strength of your ojas, which can lead to decreased immunity and vitality.

What happens in the body when ojas gets depleted?

The Charaka Samhita, another ancient Ayurvedic text, tells us that when ojas is depleted, it can lead to

  • lack of courage or confidence, timidity

  • debility

  • constant worry

  • discomfort of the senses (loud sounds being irritating and other sensory issues)

  • loss of luster in skin, hair, nails, etc.

  • neurasthenia

    • according to the NIH, it is a term no longer used that represents mental and/or physical fatigue accompanied by at least two of the following: dizziness, indigestion, muscular aches or pains, tension headaches, inability to relax, irritability, and sleep disturbance

    • Science Direct says that we might call this chronic fatigue today

  • dryness

  • emaciation (Charaka Samhita, Sutrasthana, 17/73)

the hands of a woman with signs of worry

The Ashtanga Hridayam tells us that one with decreased ojas can experience:

  • anxiety or fretfulness

  • debilitation

  • worry without apparent reason

  • discomfort in the sense organs (ears, skin, eyes, tongue/mouth, nose)

  • a bad complexion

  • poor mental activity

  • dryness7

How ojas becomes depleted according to Ayurveda

According to the Charaka Samhita, ojas can be depleted by:

  • excessive exercising--Ayurveda recommends exercising to 1/2 of your capacity

  • fasting

  • worrying

  • fear

  • grief

  • taking dry, scanty, and limited meals

  • dry beverages (astringent--like alcohol, coffee, and black tea)

  • exposure to wind and sun

  • insomnia

  • excessive excretion of mucus, blood, semen, and other excretions

  • adverse season (like the dryness of autumn)

  • old age

  • major mental illness (Charaka Samhita, Sutrasthana, 17, 76-77)

The Ashtanga Hridayam, tells us that ojas is decreased by:

  • anger

  • hunger

  • worry

  • grief

  • exertion8

How ojas is balanced in Ayurveda

As you can see, it's essential to keep ojas balanced within your body. Here are some practices that help keep ojas balanced:

1. Make sure your digestion is balanced. When your digestion is weak or too strong (meaning you burn quickly through everything you eat), then ojas will either be of poor quality and high quantity or will be burnt up too quickly by the digestion, leaving your ojas depleted.

a woman peacefully focusing on her meal

How and when we eat can be even more important than what we eat, so be sure to eat 3 meals per day without snacking in between. Eat in a relaxed environment while concentrating your full attention on your meal. If your digestion burns through your food too quickly, avoid overly spicy and acidic foods.

2. Spend time in nature. In particular, the Earth, rocks, water, and mountains help to balance ojas.9

3. Establish and maintain a regular self-care routine, including cleansing the senses and daily oiling of the body.

oils for self-care

a woman massaging her hands with oil

4. Focus on positive feelings of love, devotion, forgiveness, and compassion to help bring more good quality ojas into your life.10

5. Finding equanimity in life is a key to maintaining healthy ojas.11 I have a teacher in India who explained equanimity to me. He said that good things and bad things are going to happen to all of us at different times in our lives. Rather than being stuck on the rollercoaster of emotions that accompany these events, it is better to find a way to be okay no matter what may be happening around us. Finding this equanimity helps to build healthy ojas.

6. Get good rest and sleep to help balance ojas.12 Check out these sleep routines to help you get a good night's rest consistently.

a woman in bed with her eyes open

7. A consistent yoga nidra practice (yogic deep sleep) is an excellent way to increase ojas. In yoga nidra, a facilitator talks you through focusing on different body parts and may also guide you through a visualization practice. Here are some that I use regularly:

A friend of mine, Mona Warner, offers these yoga nidra recordings on Amazon. I enjoy listening to these because they create a connection to the elements.

Insight Timer is a free app that offers many different yoga nidra recordings. This app offers a wide range of practices, including quite a few that are specific to improving sleep.

8. According to Ayurveda, certain foods are beneficial to help build ojas. Include ghee, dates, almonds soaked overnight in water, basmati rice, grains, root veggies, and warm spiced milk in your diet.

One of my favorite ojas-building foods is popped lotus seeds sauteed in ghee or olive oil with salt and spices. Be sure to sautee them before cooking, otherwise, they are chewy and tasteless. Enjoy them with the warm, spiced milk mentioned above.

9. Ayurveda recommends avoiding foods that are rough, dry, and raw to help balance ojas. Avoid alcohol, coffee, tea, raw salads, processed foods, and fast foods.

10. Try taking Chyavanprash, a delicious jam that according to Ayurveda and the NIH helps build ojas and rejuvenate the body. You can take 1 tablespoon each morning followed by a cup of warm, spiced milk to help build and maintain good ojas. You can find this at Kottakkal in the linked picture below.

a jar of chyavanaprash by Kottakkal

10. Try drinking this special ojas milk to help build healthy ojas.*

*Only consume this ojas milk if your digestion is strong. If you have a thick coating on your tongue, work on your digestion first before consuming this ojas milk drink.

To stimulate sluggish digestion try one or more of these recipes:

11. Incorporate breathing practices into your life to support your prana, which in turn will support your ojas. Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breath) and Dirgha Pranayama (3-Part Breath) are two great breathing practices to use to help balance ojas. Insight Timer, a free app, has instructions for both of these breathing practices.

Ojas in Ayurveda

I would love to hear if anything in this post resonated with you--let me know in the comments section. Do you have any other ojas-balancing practices to share? I would love to hear about them!

  1. Vagbhatta, and K. R. Srikantha Murthy. Astanga Hrdayam. 5th ed., vol. 1, Krishnadas Academy, 2001, 164.

  2. Vagbhatta, and K. R. Srikantha Murthy. Astanga Hrdayam. 5th ed., vol. 1, Krishnadas Academy, 2001, 163.

  3. Vasant Lad, Textbook of Ayurveda: Fundamental Principles, Albuquerque, NM, The Ayurvedic Press, 2002, 212.

  4. Vagbhatta, and K. R. Srikantha Murthy. Astanga Hrdayam. 5th ed., vol. 1, Krishnadas Academy, 2001, 163.

  5. Pole, Sebastian. Ayurvedic Medicine: The Principles of Traditional Practice. 2nd ed., Singing Dragon, 2013. pp. 24.

  6. Vasant Lad, Textbook of Ayurveda: Fundamental Principles, Albuquerque, NM, The Ayurvedic Press, 2002, 215.

  7. Vagbhatta, and K. R. Srikantha Murthy. Astanga Hrdayam. 5th ed., vol. 1, Krishnadas Academy, 2001, 164.

  8. Vagbhatta, and K. R. Srikantha Murthy. Astanga Hrdayam. 5th ed., vol. 1, Krishnadas Academy, 2001, 164.

  9. Frawley, David. Soma in Ayurveda and Yoga: The Power of Rejuvenation and Immortality. 1st ed., Lotus Press, 2012. p. 83.

  10. Frawley, David. Soma in Ayurveda and Yoga: The Power of Rejuvenation and Immortality. 1st ed., Lotus Press, 2012. p. 83.

  11. Frawley, David. Soma in Ayurveda and Yoga: The Power of Rejuvenation and Immortality. 1st ed., Lotus Press, 2012. p. 83.

  12. Frawley, David. Soma in Ayurveda and Yoga: The Power of Rejuvenation and Immortality. 1st ed., Lotus Press, 2012. p. 83.

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