Ojas (pronounced oh-jas), or “primal vigor,” is the pure essence of the Kapha dosha and the water element. Ojas governs immunity and vitality, and helps to maintain natural resistance. The most important of the Ayurvedic vital essences to develop, especially when pregnant, is ojas, because it is the essential vitality that gives endurance and strength, and creates a buffer when harsh winds blow. It is said that abundant ojas in the mother creates love and compassion that she passes on to her baby. Increasing ojas is not just about building it up, but also not losing or wasting it.
Ojas is lost by:
- lack of sleep
- poor digestion
- excessive anger, grief, and worrying
- too much sex
Ojas can be strengthened and replenished by:
- following a diet and lifestyle appropriate to your constitution
- eating specific nourishing, wholesome and nutritious foods, which include almonds, walnuts, honey, saffron, ghee, whole grains, certain legumes (like mung beans), root vegetables, and dairy products (particularly warm, spiced milk)
- spending time in nature
- sleeping soundly
- taking a break from electronics and media stimulation;
- practicing meditation, chanting, and certain breathing exercises (pranayama);
- taking rejuvenating herbs such as amalaki (the primary ingredient in the Ayurvedic herbal jelly called chyavanprash, which can be helpful for all body types; shatavari; and ashwagandha (during pregnancy, use under the guidance of an Ayurvedic practitioner or herbalist).
Taking a relaxing vacation does wonders for ojas. Spending time away from computers, telephones, televisions, and your daily demands allows your nervous system to relax deeply and rejuvenate. Have you ever noticed a lustrous glow on people when they return from a restful holiday in nature? That is ojas!
Instability of Ojas in Pregnancy
“Ojas is the essence of the body responsible for strength, natural resistance and is considered essential for life,” says the Astanga Hridayam, a classic Ayurvedic text. “It is said to be present in the heart. . . . Its presence in the fetus and mother produce strength and contentment, and its absence fatigue and anxiety.”
Almost every classical Ayurvedic text talks about how ojas moves from the mother to the fetus and from the fetus to the mother in the eighth month. Because of this transfer, it is said that the mother and fetus alternately become happy and energetic when ojas is strong, then fatigued and anxious when ojas is weak. The instability of ojas makes it an unfavorable time to give birth, both for the mother and for the baby’s health.
You may notice yourself feeling surges of energy coming and going, obviously or subtly. You may also not notice anything, which is completely fine. Either way, the eighth month of pregnancy is an opportune time to replenish your ojas by following a diet and lifestyle appropriate to your constitution. If you have strayed from following a diet that is in harmony with your dosha, now is an ideal time to come back to it.
Ojas can be fortified by eating foods that build and nourish, and by doing wholesome, rejuvenating activities and yogic practices. You may notice that some foods and activities will have more noticeable and immediate effects on your energy and vitality, while others will take longer to kick in. Regardless of what you feel or notice, replenishing and supporting your ojas will help you to feel balanced, strong, and healthy through the end of your pregnancy and into postpartum.
Rejuvenating Ojas drink
1 handful whole, raw almonds
4 to 5 pitted dates
1 cup water, plus extra for soaking
1 cup milk (whole milk for Vata types, 2% for Pitta types, and skim for Kapha types; or almond milk for a dairy free option)
Pinch of cardamom
Soak almonds in water overnight. Drain water and peel almonds in the morning. The skins should slide right off.
Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
Enjoy. Notice how you feel when you drink it, afterward and even the next day.