I was fortunate to be asked to teach about prana, tejas, and ojas as they relate to Ayurvedic cooking and marma therapy in the upcoming on line Ayurvedic Summit happening free this July 1- 5, 2015.
Prana is our subtle energy, the chi that revitalizes every organ and keeps us flexible and happily moving. Tejas is our inner radiance and creativity, our élan vital, jivana. Ojas is the vital cushion that protects us and these two other energies. It helps them grow safely. Without ojas, every little stimulus can bug us, each change can rattle our mood. With ojas, we develop equanimity and a deeper trust in who we are and what we are here to manifest.
In a pre-recorded session for the summit, I talked about marma therapy, Ayurveda and Yoga’s ancient form of therapeutic touch, and how it can be used to strengthen prana, tejas, and ojas, through contact with specific points on the body that nurture these subtle yet essential energies. I also spoke about fresh air and fresh food, food deserts, and where and how we live and work. Prana-rich foods are those that have grown up well-treated in good soils, with love and respect. Those of us currently in summer season may be lucky enough to have great examples of prana-rich food happening near us, in local farmer’s markets, mercados, and CSAs (community supported agriculture). In addition to food, we receive prana through our breath. Alternate nostril breathing is one time-honored way for people of all constitutional types to safely nourish prana.
While prana is light and airy, tejas relates to the radiance and fire within food and our selves. It expresses in color, beauty, and sound. Paramahansa Yogananda said, “Spirit manifests its tenderness in the flowers.” Literally feasting our eyes on a high-mountain meadow of freshly blooming wildflowers can restore our tejas, if this nourishment is taken in consistently. Blessing our lives and meals can be another way to generate tejas.
Life has its inevitable changes; this is where ojas and bodhicitta help us. Ojas is our cool moist vital cushion that protects us from harm and allows our prana and tejas to gently develop. (There’s more about this in The Ayurvedic Guide to Polarity Therapy, pages 117 – 121.) Ojas strengthens our immunity and equanimity. Our planet’s ozone layer is akin to our planetary ojas. It is there to protect all the sentient beings on this earth. Without it, we are vulnerable to cosmic radiation. Similarly our individual ojas protects us by strengthening our physical and emotional immunity. We are less disturbed by events, and better able to hold to our life purposes. Loving kindness, a sense of humor, steady spiritual practices, rest and contemplation near running water, devotion to higher purposes, all these nurture ojas. Having a realistic sense of what we need and receiving it supports ojas. I read recently about gamma waves, which used to be thought of as the brain’s “spare noise” with no particular function. Research reveals now that these waves are highly active when we are in states of universal love and altruism. One could say that these brain waves are one way that the nervous system manifests ojas.
This altruism and steady practice can be helpful to those around us. Literally, bodhicitta is the wish to benefit others and the cornerstone for developing ojas. Yet the wise development of ojas can also benefit our selves, and it needs to do so. Those of us in the healing and creative arts know how fine the line can be between total engagement and frying out. Yet as you’re approaching this line, you may not be aware of how close you are to consuming a large chunk of your inner resources. Letting our ojas build and renew is a key cushion between us and a most uncomfortable state of depletion. It is so important! Yet there is also a fine divide between withdrawal and loving openness. As my Tibetan teacher Garchen Rinpoche said, “As soon as you think of others with love, your mind opens up. Otherwise your mind becomes narrow. The greater our focus on our self becomes, the more tense we become. When you look into your mind with discriminating wisdom, you will see that this is really true. If you give rise to the mind seeking the benefit of others, both others and yourself will be benefitted.” (The Commentary on the Essential Meaning of the Thirty – Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas, Drikung Kagyu Teachings by H.E. Garchen Rinpoche, Singapore, 2011)
If we forget this and do not include our selves in this extension of love, if we run our selves down and do not attend to our own needs for nourishment, rest and space, we can risk creating physical or mental illness. Tejas and prana cannot flourish without ojas and may even harm us. If ojas shrinks from exhaustion or excess Vata or sheer overload, it cannot provide the healthy container that prana and tejas need. Auto-immune diseases or mental disturbances may result. With insufficient ojas, prana can become hyper and tejas can manifest as manic. When someone is at risk of nervous exhaustion or in an auto-immune depleted state, here is when ojas needs to be built, rather than prana or tejas. Rest, reduced stimulation, time in nature, steady meals and fluids, and gentle marma therapy can help.
Over the years I’ve taught marma therapy as a self care method to build ojas, as a protection for all three subtle energies. There are simple points on our bodies that can be safely contacted in a direct form of self care. I have usually thought that people need to be in the same physical space in order to learn these points, yet perhaps this is not true.
Martin Combrinck, organizer of the upcoming on line Ayurvedic Summit, invited me as part of my presentation to share a short guided marma program with him over the phone to strengthen ojas,. He was in South Africa and I was in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Yet we were both surprised how effective that long distance connection was, as Martin palpated therapeutic points on himself with my guidance. If you’d like to learn more about this process for yourself, this and many other teachings are being offered free to the public July 1 – 5, 2015 (Sign up here). There’s a wonderful group of Ayurvedic educators teaching in “one place” on line. With much thanks to Martin for gathering us all and providing such a creative space, Namaste!